Abolishing extra public service hours ‘would cost €621m per year’

Government defends additional hours requirement on third day of pay talks

The Government has said it would cost about €621 million per year to fully abolish the current requirement for staff in the public service to work additional hours without extra pay.

The Government made the claim on the third day of talks on a new public service pay deal.

The additional hour’s requirement – which lengthened the working week by about two hours for most workers – was introduced under previous public service pay agreements.

However, unions are demanding that this requirement be ended in the talks on a new accord.

The Government had previously signalled that retaining the additional working hours would be a “red-line” issue for it in the current negotiations.

At a briefing for trade unions at the talks on Wednesday, Government departments argued that the additional hour’s requirement was extremely valuable.

Government representatives maintained that the additional unpaid hours were worth €583 million per year, but it would cost €621 million per year to abolish the measure completely, taking into account hours worked by future employees.

A number of unions have argued that the additional hours are an unfair burden on public sector workers’ family and caring obligations.

Sources said a number of unions believe that they would not be able to recommend accepting any new pay accord if the issue of the additional hours was not addressed.

Pension contributions

Earlier on Wednesday, the Government indicated formally to trade unions that it wants some groups of public service staff to contribute more for their pensions.

However, sources said Government representatives did not provide specific details on the scale of increases that would be sought.

Trade union officials said they would oppose any such move.

It is understood that Garda representative organisations said singling out those public service personnel who had faster accruing pensions with a demand to make larger contributions would effectively mean a pay cut for their members.

This would come at a time when their members were seeking restoration of pay which had been cut over recent years, it was argued.

Sources said Garda representatives contended that the existing requirement for their members to retire earlier than other public servants stemmed from Government policy and they should not be penalised as a result of this.

It is understood that Government representatives on Wednesday highlighted an actuarial report which the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had commissioned for the recent Public Service Pay Commission.

The report argued that public service pensions were 12-18 per cent more valuable than those available to private sector workers.

Trade unions argued that their actuarial advice was that the value of pensions in the public service was about 12 per cent – at the lowest end of the commission’s estimate.