|Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and Taoiseach Brian Cowen, at the launch of the National Pensions Framework policy document, on March 03, 2010. |
IBEC, the Irish business representative group, said overnight that any agreement between Government and unions from the current talks must involve an ambitious programme of reform that transforms how the pubic service operates. The group said that any reversal of the pay cuts in the December budget is inconceivable given the current state of the public finances. However the business group should also address issues that undermine its own credibility.
IBEC Director Brendan McGinty said: "Through benchmarking and national agreements, the taxpayer has already paid for reform of the public sector. What has been delivered, however, is insufficient and we still do not have an integrated public service." He added: "Any agreement must involve transformational and measurable change in the public sector that reduces costs without affecting services. If this cannot be achieved, other means of reducing the cost of the public sector will have to be on the agenda.
The principal social partners who agreed with the Government on the division of the spoils of the property bubble, with neither side pushing for reforms in the economy, were contributors to the economic crash. Now, on one side, the trade unions blame bankers and builders for the economic travails and barter modernisation of the public sector that should have been delivered years ago, while IBEC calls for public service reform but remains silent on the protected sheltered part of the private sector where big fee professional services firm cartels have got a €2.4bn new lifeline from the toxic loans agency NAMA with the Victorian era of secrecy on contracts intact.
SEE current Finfacts article: Could the Irish public sector benchmarking fiasco provide a case for the DPP?
IBEC has called for all industrial action to be immediately called off and said it only served to damage Ireland's international reputation and inconvenience the general public.
“Despite the pay cuts in December, the public sector pay and pensions bill this year will be €19 billion and will consume 60% of all tax revenue. Finding savings through public sector reform is the only way trade unions can hope to minimise the impact of future cuts, given that the Government is committed to making further budgetary adjustments of €3bn in 2011 and €3bn in 2012,” McGinty said.
IBEC said that any agreement with the public sector unions must involve:
Specific, measurable and transparent targets, with a firm implementation timetable
Reducing waste and duplication through better and more flexible use of staff
The overhaul of employment practices and human resource structures to address problems around redeployment, rosters, working patterns, skill mix issues, premium payments, performance management policies and absenteeism
Improving service provision in the public sector by codifying and raising service standards
The greater use of shared services and outsourcing, and increased collaboration with the private sector
Improving public procurement practices
A national oversight body to ensure there is full accountability and transparency in the delivery of reform
“Ireland’s long-term prosperity depends on a high-quality, effective and innovative public service. The country is going through a period of immense economic challenges and it is vital that the public service plays its full part in this national recovery effort," Brendan McGinty added.
"The country needs to unite behind a shared vision that puts jobs first. This must focus on reducing costs, improving competitiveness and ensuring that we continue to restore balance to the public finances," he concluded.