Civil servants lose bid for more holidays

Civil servants have had their request for extra holidays to compensate them for the loss of “bank time” to cash their pay cheques rejected.

The Civil Service Arbitration Board (CSAB) has ruled that there is no basis for acceding to the request from a union representing low-paid civil servants as they had formally agreed to the abolition of the “bank time” allowance back in 2011.

The CSAB had been asked to adjudicate on a claim by the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) for a once-off award of 4.5 days’ holidays to compensate staff for the loss of the perk.

The union, which represents 13,000 civil servants, had been sharply criticised for seeking compensation for its members by business representative groups, IBEC and ISME, on the basis that most staff have had their wages paid electronically into their bank accounts for many years.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding described the CPSU’s claim for extra holidays as “madness”.

The existence of the allowance had previously been criticised by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which branded it an “outdated work practice”.

The “bank time” allowance granted most civil servants 30 minutes on a Friday to enable them to lodge their pay cheques at a bank. It only applied to people who had joined the civil service before 2003.

The allowance was first introduced during the 1970s but in recognition that most civil servants subsequently had their salaries paid electronically, an agreement to abolish it was reached in 2011 as part of the Croke Park Agreement.

It saw the cessation of the “bank time” allowance as well as two privilege days for most grades of civil servants. However, all staff who lost the entitlement were awarded two extra days annual leave.

The CPSU had argued the loss of “bank time” amounted to a pay cut of 1.6% on average.

The CSAB calculated that the “bank time” allowance equated to 26 hours per annum or approximately 3.7 working days.

A compensation formula of 1.5 times the annual loss, which has been used in a number of cases under the Croke Park Agreement, was the basis of the CPSU’s claim for extra holidays.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform maintained that the CPSU had agreed to concede on the issue of bank time, of their own accord, in return for the agreement on incorporating the two privilege days into their members’ annual leave allocation.

Department officials said correspondence showed it was a decision which the union had made to their negotiating position in talks leading up to the Croke Park Agreement for which “they and they alone are responsible”.

They also expressed concern that the CPSU repeated claims that they signed up to the Croke Park Agreement on the basis it was linked to the abolition of privilege days for the most senior management levels within the civil service.

However, secretary generals and assistant secretary generals still retain the perk.

In its ruling, the board said it had concluded the agreement to end the practice of the allowance had been freely negotiated by the CPSU.

“The board consider there was no evidence conditionality whatever in this agreement and does not see any merit in departing from it,” said CSAB chairman John Doherty.


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