Consultations planned on cost of premium payments

2nd December 2011

Unions have been assured that planned measures to cut spending on allowances and premium payments will be done within the scope of the Croke Park agreement, which does not allow for cuts in the rates themselves. Officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have sought consultation with unions, which is likely to focus on other ways of reducing the bill for premium payments.

This is in line with recent trends that have seen overtime costs fall substantially since 2008, including a 5.2% – or €6.3 million – reduction in the first year of the Croke Park agreement. Management has told unions that the Government intends to reduce the overtime bill by 10% in 2012.

The cost of premium payments has already been reduced in certain areas by changing work arrangements to reduce reliance on overtime. For instance, changes in rosters and other reforms in medical laboratories, agreed under Croke Park, are now delivering annual savings of €7 million.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has told management in each part of the public service to find ways of reducing spending on allowances and premium payments. But, in a letter to ICTU’s Public Services Committee, his 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.”

The union yesterday wrote to health minister James Reilly urging him to overturn the HSE’s decision.

IMPACT official Louise O’Donnell said the HSE ‘s move had met with universal disapproval. “Health staff are working hard to cut costs and maintain services, but they can’t be expected to meet the costs of running vital community health services out of their own pockets,” she said.