IMPACT insists PMDS system must be fair

Monday 14th May 2012

IMPACT has expressed opposition to proposed changes to the civil service PMDS (performance management and development system), which would mean a fixed percentage of staff receiving poor performance ratings and forgoing increments as a result.

The management proposals, presented to unions at a meeting on 1st May, would see increments withheld from staff who fail to achieve a ‘three’ rating in their annual performance review.  Those civil servants who get increments must currently achieve a ‘two’ rating in the five-point PMDS system before their increment is approved.

The proposed changes are to be discussed again at a meeting of unions and management later this month.  If the two sides fail to agree on the change, a binding arbitration can be made under the Croke Park agreement.

Management says its most controversial proposal – ‘forced distribution’ or fixing the number of staff who get poor performance ratings – would create and sustain a high-performance culture. But it admits that “there is a danger that forced distribution will result in a culture shift, creating a more competitive atmosphere and decreasing morale.” It is also reported to have admitted that forced distribution would not work, or be perceived as fair, across small population groups of staff.

IMPACT says management proposals fail to address the real problem of inconsistency in the application of performance management across different Government departments. Recently, the union successfully pressed for new PMDS guidelines, which will ensure that all staff are reviewed under the system, with sanctions for managers who fail to fully conduct PMDS for all staff.

It now wants to see an efficient appeal and review system, with a panel of auditors conducting annual random samples to ensure consistency in PMDS application. IMPACT national secretary Eamonn Donnelly said proposals to link incremental progression to the achievement of a ‘three’ grade strengthened the case for more consistency and weakened the argument for ’forced distribution.’

“The objective of PMDS should not be punishment, but improved performance. It would be far better to introduce an early performance review for those who get a ‘two’ grade to incentivise and improvement performance,” he said.