Allowances review expected soon

The Department of Public Enterprise and Reform (DPER) is set to announce the outcome of a review of the payments across the public service.

The review was announced in late December, when all departments were given until the end of January 2012 to report on the allowances they pay. They were also told to make a business case for payments they believe should continue to be paid to staff as they are hired, promoted or assigned to new duties.

The stated objective of the review is to facilitate a 10% reduction in spending on allowances and premium payments by 2014. The cost of allowances and premium payments will fall as public service staff numbers continue to decline, but not by enough to meet this target.

The review is not supposed to end all allowances and premium payments. The letter from the DPER secretary general, which announced the review, said the Minister believed that allowances which reflect “work of additional value” or the “arduous nature or unsocial hours” of certain duties and posts remain “valid, appropriate and cost effective.”

But it said others might have been overtaken by developments in qualifications, duties, skills and “normal flexibilities now expected or required in public service employment.”

Since the end of January 2012, new entrants to the public service have not received any allowances or premium payments paid to existing staff, pending the outcome of the review. The same goes for staff promoted, newly assigned or transferred into work areas where allowances exist.

The review is expected to lead to the permanent cessation of some allowances for new entrants, promoted staff or those assigned or transferred in to new work areas. Unions have been told that the review will identify three types of allowance or premium payment:

  1. Allowances that will discontinue because the business case was not made or was deemed too weak
  2. Those that will continue because the DPER accepts the business case made
  3. Those for which more information is required from departmental management before a final decision is made.

Unions have also been told that any changes will respect the Croke Park agreement and that there will be full consultation with staff representatives at central and sectoral level. In a letter to ICTU’s Public Services Committee last year, officials stressed that “any initiatives which would arise should be advanced in compliance with the terms of the Croke Park Agreement and having regard to the primary commitments given by the Government under the agreement.”

IMPACT has said that it is especially important that any changes protect lower paid staff whose wage structure leaves them highly dependent on overtime, allowances or premiums.