VEC staff may be moved to meet targets

DOZENS of support staff in Vocational Education Committees (VECs) may have to be moved to other areas of the public sector next year to help meet staffing reduction targets.

In addition to more than 9,200 teachers in its second-level schools and further education colleges, the 33 VECs employ just over 2,000 non-teaching staff.

While most are clerical and administration staff, they also include school caretakers and secretaries, staff running adult education and Youthreach prog-rammes, and those working in crèches at VEC centres.

However, a 9% reduction in administration and support staff numbers has to be achieved by the end of 2012, to 1,938 from the March 2009 figure of 2,131.

By the end of last year, the figure had dropped to 2,042 but the Department of Education has told VECs their administrative personnel must fall to 1,973 by the end of this year.

While most VECs are meeting targets through staff retirements not being replaced, it is understood some others are not achieving the reductions.

Figures obtained by the Irish Examiner show that there were just 18 fewer staff after the first six months of the year, meaning another 51 posts need to be cleared by the end of this year.

A senior Department of Education official told the Oireachtas Education Committee last week that any VECs that is unable to meet the targets will have to identify staff to be moved into other sectors of the public service.

“If they can’t meet the target set for them by natural wastage, they have to identify people to go on redeployment panels by the Public Appointments Service,” said department assistant secretary general Martin Hanevy.

“That’s to free up people who are capable of being put into a social welfare exchange or elsewhere, so the consolidation [of the VECs] will ultimately enable the VECs to sustain services against a falling number of administrative staff.”

While the Croke Park Agreement allows for redeployment of VEC staff over and above employment control limits, the IMPACT union, which represents 1,400 non-teacher personnel in the sector, expects it will not arise.

“If there is a VEC whose staffing is a little bit over the target, we expect it will be offset by others and by further retirements early next year. There is also the fact that many neighbouring VECs will be amalgamated soon,” said IMPACT assistant general secretary Pat Bolger.

Education Minister Ruairí Quinn announced last month that the 33 VECs will be reduced to 16 through amalgamations of all but three (City of Dublin, Co Donegal and Co Kerry VECs), in a slight revision to the changes announced by his predecessor, Mary Coughlan, last year.

But the estimated €3 million a year due to be saved through payment of fewer chief executive salaries, disposal of leases or owned properties by some VECs and reduced costs associated with payroll and procurement, will not be achieved for at least two or three years.

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