Howlin: We can’t redeploy everybody

Plans for targeted voluntary redundancy packages for 2,300 public service workers will be brought to Cabinet tomorrow as talks continue on renegotiating Croke Park.

Staff working in health, agriculture, and education will be offered three weeks’ pay for each year of service, as well as statutory entitlement of two weeks’ pay.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, who will present the plans to Cabinet, said it was not sustainable to have workers getting paid who essentially had no job to do and refused to be redeployed.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, he said there was scope to widen the exit scheme for workers but warned: “You can’t have a situation where people have no job to do, can’t be or won’t be redeployed and they will continue to be paid; that’s not sustainable.”

He said: “They will be offered the deal to go because we don’t have a job for them that can sustain them.

“They don’t have to go; they’re offered the terms. Otherwise they’ll have to be redeployed but we’ve exhausted redeployment in a lot of areas.

“And there are people who can’t be deployed, who have a skillset that is supernumerary to what’s needed right now.”

Public cuts

Areas identified as having scope to generate surplus posts include:

HSE — 1,500 posts. About 950 surplus posts have been identified in management and administrative grades. The merging of laboratory services will lead to 300 surplus posts and 300 other posts have also been identified.

Agriculture — 400 posts. Reorganisation of local offices/16 regional offices and merging certain field inspectorate functions.

Education — 370 posts. From various operations that are closing or reducing activity. The most prominent examples are VEC crèches and senior Traveller training centres. Proposed VEC mergers will also free up posts.

The memo to Cabinet will outline the need to agree exit packages for 2,000 workers this year as well as a further 2,000 next year, on top of natural retirement, as the Government moves to reduce public sector worker numbers to 282,500 by the end 2014.

The Government hopes further measures such as shared services for human resources, finance, and payroll operations in agencies and departments will see more surplus posts in future years.

Agreement has already been reached with union chiefs on redundancy terms for workers. These are the same as originally applied to the HSE in 2010 — two weeks’ statutory entitlement and a further three weeks’ pay per year of service to a maximum of two years’ pay, or half pay to retirement.

Mr Howlin said some people had predicted an “armageddon” at the end of February and a “mass exodus” of workers during a previous redundancy round last year, but that services managed fine. “There has to be an exit system; an exit mechanism available. I don’t think the unions ultimately would resist that,” he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday warned that if unions fail to agree to cuts of €1bn under a revised Croke Park deal, the Government would introduce legislation to force pay cuts on workers.

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