Dáil debates

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Topical Issue Debate

Croke Park Agreement Review

3:40 pm

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour) | Oireachtas source

Deputies will be aware that an implementation body was established in 2010 to oversee implementation of the provisions of the Croke Park or public service agreement. The body is independently chaired by Mr. P. J. Fitzpatrick and comprises representatives of all the parties to the agreement, the public service trade unions and public service management. The body is supported in its work by a small secretariat based in my Department.

Under paragraph 1.16 of the agreement, the body is required to assess the savings being facilitated under the framework of the agreement on an annual basis. As part of the annual review process, savings returned are completed and submitted to the body in respect of every sector, Department and office. The body undertakes an assessment of savings and progress achieved during the period under review and publishes an annual report on foot of that examination. Two such reports have been published to date and a third, covering the period to 31 December 2012, is awaited. This is the report to which the Deputy refers.

The two annual progress reports published to date show that the agreement has facilitated significant savings and reform in a climate of industrial peace. For example, approximately €1.5 billion in savings has been facilitated by the agreement in the first two years, comprising, as Deputy Fleming rightly said, €810 million and €678 million in sustainable pay bill and non-pay efficiency savings, respectively.

Pay savings have been driven primarily by the reduction in staff numbers over the course of the agreement, but there are also other factors, such as the reduction in overtime costs and pay bill savings accruing from changed work practices, rationalisation, etc. Non-pay savings have been achieved through the better use of resources, reorganising work and achieving greater internal efficiencies.

In addition to outlining savings, the reports of the body also show that wide-ranging reform has been delivered across the sectors of the public service. This includes extensive redeployment and reassignment of staff, for example in the health and education sectors, thereby helping to mitigate the impact of a reduction in staff numbers of almost 30,000 since the peak of 2008; progress on rationalising structures and office requirements, for example, in the local office network of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Revenue local offices, court venues and Teagasc offices; the introduction of revised rosters, for example in An Garda Síochána and some health service locations, to better match resources with demand. Progress on standardising terms and conditions in the public service, for example in annual sick leave arrangements, has been made and facilitated. Facilitation of the efficiency review process in the Prison Service, which led to the introduction of a lower-cost staffing model in prisons, has been achieved. The implementation of 2 million additional working hours on an annual basis in the education sector, eliminating the need for school closures for parent–teacher meetings, planning, etc., has been achieved. The implementation of significant restructuring and new modes of service delivery in local government has been achieved in order to manage the significant reduction in staff in that sector. Approximately 8,500 members of staff have left the local government sector since the peak of 2008.

The agreement has been a key enabler for the implementation of the Government's comprehensive public service reform plan. Earlier this year, the implementation body commenced its third annual review of the agreement, which deals with the period up to 31 December 2012. Deputies, particularly Deputy Fleming, will appreciate that there have been a difficult and demanding few months for all the parties to the agreement, with the focus on discussions aimed at securing agreement on measures to deliver an additional €1 billion in pay savings over and above those achieved under Croke Park 1 by 2015. Nonetheless, I understand that the body is now in the process of finalising its report because I have checked on foot of the Deputy’s request. I expect to receive it in the coming weeks. Following its submission to the Government, it will be published on the body's website in the normal way.


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