THE uphill battle to save billions of euro through public service reform is starkly illustrated by lower paid civil servants’ refusal to even give up the half-hour they are given each week to bank their pay cheques.
In what was one of the first hurdles in implementing the Croke Park deal, the Government wanted civil servants from next month to forgo “bank time” – the half-hour given to them either weekly or fortnightly to cash their cheques.
“Bank time” was introduced in the 1970s. Though stopped for new entrants to the civil service in 2003, the majority of civil servants still have the facility.
The Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) said due to the need for “fairness and equity” it is opposing the move. General secretary Blair Horan said in the initial talks on Croke Park, the Department of Finance identified the “bank time” and privilege days as change issues.
However, he claimed top grades in the civil service, who have 31 days leave per year, have refused to give up the “privilege days” which would apply to them.
When asked if his members would forgo the bank time if the senior civil servants lost their privilege days he replied: “I do not want to negotiate through the media. But the reality is that we know we are facing issues and they have to be dealt with. There is a process for binding arbitration.”
However, the CPSU’s position came in for criticism from both employers’ body IBEC and from sources within the other public service unions.
Brendan McGinty of IBEC said while the trade unions have been saying failure to implement the Croke Park deal is down to management not bringing forward action plans, the reality was that they were holding up the modernisation.
“This is the sort of inflexibility we have seen the back of in the private sector. It is the kind of response which lends support to critics of Croke Park as another agreement full of aspiration but short on delivery.”
Behind the scenes other trade unions also criticised the CPSU’s move. One union source said last night: “The majority of trade unions accept that it is in everyone’s interest to have real modernisation agreed and implemented.”
Meanwhile, Mr Horan criticised the absence in the Croke Park deal of proposals for the civil service to address “the extraordinary growth of management grades... in the last decade”.
He provided figures showing that between 1998 and 2009 there was a 60% rise in the number of assistant secretaries general, a 462% rise in the number of higher principal officers and a 43% increase in the number of principal officers.
Yet at the lower end of the pay scales, staff officer numbers only increased by 22% and clerical officers by 14%.
Picture: CPSU General Secretary Blair Horan (Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland).
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