More anti-Croke Park spin

Media indignation about retired public servants being rehired is just more anti-Croke Park spin, says BERNARD HARBOR.

It was no surprise that delegates to IMPACT’s recent conference passed motions condemning the practice of rehiring retired public servants when nearly 437,000 people are out of work. The union has been particularly critical of the Department of Agriculture, which continues to engage retired vets as meat inspectors despite spending large sums training existing staff to do the work much more cheaply.

But the recent media flap over the issue is just more anti-Croke Park spin.

Recently-revealed figures show that just 4% of the 8,000 who retired before the February 2012 deadline have been rehired. Well under 350 people, virtually all on short-term contracts.

Only 90 retired civil servants have been rehired recently. Let’s subtract the vets, rehired on foot of ongoing and indefensible departmental practice which IMPACT is challenging. Their new-found employment status predates the February 2012 public service retirements and would have happened regardless of the wider retirement issue.

Aside from that, just 35 of the February civil service retirees were taken back, mostly on short-term, temporary and part-time contracts. In education, about 250 teachers were retained until the summer to give continuity to exam students – a generally-supported move that was well flagged prior to the February retirements.

And this week the respected journal Industrial Relations News reports that the HSE has rehired just 39 retirees this year, or less than 1% of those who left in January and February. Most of them – 17 doctors, 18 nursing staff, one attendant and one administrator – have been rehired up to the end of this month or until replacements are found. There’s no evidence that any retired Gardai or defence forces staff have been taken on in recent months.

It’s also worth noting that the number of temporary re-hires is a fraction of the additional staff – up to 3,000 – that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has said can be hired on a permanent basis where vital posts have been left vacant following the February retirements. This has been factored into projected savings from staff reductions.

What’s more, the State still makes savings when retirees are rehired on a temporary basis. The staff concerned are subject to an additional 10% wage cut, on top of the average 14% imposed on all public servants, because they are classed as ‘new entrants’. They also have their pensions ‘abated,’ which means that the combination of pension payments and salary can’t exceed their pre-retirement salary.

It’s possible that better planning could have avoided even the small amount of temporary rehiring that has occurred. If vacancies can’t be filled by redeployment, it’s undeniably better to hire school leavers, graduates or unemployed workers to fill them. But the facts and figures don’t bear out the media spin that we’ve witnessed a failure of the Croke Park agreement.

Bernard Harbor is IMPACT’s head of communications.  Industrial Relations News (www.irn.ie) was the source of some of the information in this blog.