Union vows to oppose privilege day reforms

 

ONE OF the main Civil Service trade unions has said it will oppose any move by the Government under the Croke Park agreement to reduce the number of privilege days – additional days off on top of annual leave – for staff.

The Public Service Executive Union (PSEU), which represents about 10,000 middle grade civil servants, said it would refer any such move to third party binding adjudication, as allowed under the deal.

This is the first occasion that such a process has been invoked in relation to the Civil Service under the terms of the Croke Park deal.

Tom Geraghty, general secretary of the PSEU, said yesterday that any proposal to scale back on privilege days was “without merit”.

He said that it would amount to nothing more than “pandering to the worst media in the world”.

Staff in the Civil Service have traditionally had an additional privilege day off during Christmas and Easter.

At a meeting yesterday, Civil Service management signalled that it would bring forward proposals regarding the future of privilege days before Christmas as part of reforms it is seeking under the terms of the Croke Park agreement.

However, according to union sources, management also indicated that any proposed change would not be designed to impact on the Christmas arrangements this year.

It is understood that at the meeting management signalled that any reforms of privilege days would have regard to different levels of leave entitlement for various grades in the Civil Service as well as the impact of the Government’s decision to abolish the traditional time off given to staff to cash their pay cheques in the bank.

Staff recruited to the Civil Service before 2003 have 30 minutes off each week or fortnight-depending on how frequently they are paid – to cash their cheques even though in the vast majority of cases they are paid by electronic fund transfer.

Civil Service trade unions were told at the meeting yesterday that this time would be abolished from January 1st next. In a circular to members yesterday, the union said that “if there was any proposal to interfere with privilege days affecting our members, we would not be agreeing to it and we will use the procedures under the agreement for referral to a third party for binding adjudication, if necessary”.

The Croke Park deal provides for issues of disagreement between management and unions to be referred to independent third party adjudication. Under the terms of the agreement, this process has to be completed within six weeks of the referral.

On Thurday the union representing lower-paid civil servants, the CPSU, told its members they would be given two additional days leave to compensate for the abolition of privilege days.

Separately the PSEU has also expressed concern at plans to move community welfare service staff from the HSE to the Department of Social Protection under the terms of the Croke Park deal.

A separate circular to members states: “The union expressed serious concern about the impact such large numbers coming into the department would have on the existing staff of the department.

“We are concerned that the department has a position on this but, for some reason, it is unwilling to sit down with the union and discuss it within the normal industrial relations framework.”