Senior Irish civil servants spared 'sense of grievance'; Allowed to keep 'King's Birthday' and 'Empire Day' privilege days
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Mar 21, 2011 - 2:05 PM

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Government Buildings, Dublin.

The Irish government's effort to end the 'King's Birthday' and 'Empire Day' privilege days' holidays has been thwarted by an arbitration ruling allowing senior civil servants to keep the additional to avoid a 'sense of grievance.'

The two special holiday days are a relic from British rule when civil servants in Ireland were entitled to additional days leave each year called privilege days - - one for the King's birthday, and one to mark Empire Day. Following independence in 1922, civil servants retained the entitlement to the two privilege days  --  one at Christmas, and one at Easter - -  and over the years they got several general additional holidays.

Under the slow-motion Croke Park agreement on public service reform the Government wished to abolish privilege days. Senior staff receiving 30-31 days annual leave would have lost privilege days completely. Staff entitled to between 25-29 days annual leave would have converted one privilege day to an extra day's annual leave. Those with below 24 days annual leave would have the two privilege days converted into two additional annual leave days.

The Department of Finance in a submission to the Civil Service Arbitration Board hearing in February said that the measures proposed would generate productivity savings of €4.6m per year and lead to greater administrative efficiencies.

However the Civil Service Arbitration Board found that the management side “had not demonstrated significant savings consistent with the transformation that is required”.

“There was no significant analysis of the fact that while major cost apparently saved were made at principal officer and assistant principal officer level, those very grades may be required to work extensive overtime without any remuneration or time off in lieu.”

The board said that the changes would have created
“a sense of grievance disproportionate to any gains which might accrue.”

The country may be a ward of the International Monetary Fund, tens of thousands of lives have been damaged during a brutal recession in which senior civil servants were complicit and the Civil Service Arbitration Board wants the relic of the Victorian era maintained.

Many of the citizenry have more of a right of “a sense of grievance,' than this protected elite with exceptional pension benefits.

Civil servants continue to get 30 minutes off each week to cash pay cheques, despite being paid by electronic transfer.

Managers last November missed a deadline they set to abolish an "outdated" practice of giving staff time off to visit banks to cash pay cheques.

Under the Croke Park agreement, they aimed to eliminate this 'bank time' in November.

Clerical officers get half an hour a week off and higher grades get half an hour a fortnight to cash pay cheques, even though most of them are paid by electronic transfer.

Gardaí not only retire at the age of 50 with full pension rights, but are also allowed to choose the three base years which determine their final award - - good overtime years are the default choice.

Last November, the Financial Times reported that public employees are given paid time off to attend local race meetings and arts festivals. In County Leitrim, public sector workers used to get paid time off to attend a local regatta on the River Shannon. Even when the regatta was discontinued, the free-day tradition persisted. When Leitrim’s public servants were finally forced to forsake their day off for the discontinued regatta, trade unions secured compensation for the workers affected.

The arbitration board was chaired by a lawyer, senior counsel, Turlough O'Donnell.

SEE: also;

Sick leave in Irish civil service almost doubled since 1980s; Average employee absent for over 11 days in 2007

Commercial litigation in Ireland on €200,000 claim double cost in Europe; Average Irish court case takes 515 days

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