Outsourcing could become a stumbling block in public sector pay talks

The union representing low-paid civil servants has rejected the Government’s efficiencies “wishlist” outlined in the ongoing pay talks and warns there can be no further productivity deals.

And one of the items on that wish list — outsourcing — could become a significant bone of contention as the Government seeks to potentially weaken the safeguards around how outsourcing can happen.

The sides held detailed negotiations on outsourcing, apprenticeships, and various other non-pay issues yesterday. As those talks were due to begin, Civil Public and Services Union general secretary Eoin Ronayne told his members in a posting on its website that the wish list tabled by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform contains items rejected by the unions during the Haddington Road and Lansdowne Road Agreement talks.

“It is not unexpected that DPER would table fresh productivity demands although the breadth and nature is,” he said. “We will continue to hold our position that there can be no further productivity deals and that FEMPI for our grades must be ended.”

Among the measures being sought by the Government are the outsourcing of some public services; making Saturday a normal working day and therefore not subject to any premiums; and the widening of potential redeployment limits from 45km to 60km.

In spite of Mr Ronayne’s comments, other sources have speculated there will be no new deal without some productivity concessions.

In discussions regarding outsourcing yesterday, sources said the Government appears to be seeking to weaken the controls which exist on how services can be given over to the private sector. At present, a business case must be presented as to why the service should be outsourced, and that business case is not allowed to includes labour costs.

It is feared that if labour costs were to be included, the private sector could offer the service at the lowest possible wage and most basic conditions — it would leave little chance that the public service could compete.

Today, the sides are due to discuss two further controversial issues — there will be a presentation on pensions in the morning and talks on the restoration of hours in the afternoon. The Government has indicated that it will require public servants to pay more towards their pensions in any new deal and it has also signalled that it is not willing to restore public servants to the hours they were working before the financial crisis.

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