26 September 2023

IRELAND: Agency weighs cost of end to unpaid work

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Eliminating unpaid working hours of Ireland’s Public Servants could cost the country €645 million ($A995 million) a year, according to Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditure.

The additional, unpaid working hours were introduced for staff across the Public Service as an austerity measure nearly a decade ago.

In a submission to the independent body established by the Government to examine the issue, the Department said this was the equivalent of 10,952 additional full-time employees.

“This data suggests additional hours have been essential in keeping average weekly hours worked in line with the private sector,” the Department said.

It said there were an estimated 185,000 officers across the public sector working approximately 15 million additional unpaid hours — introduced under the 2013 Haddington Road agreement.

The Department said abolition of the unpaid hours would likely lead to an increased reliance on overtime or Agency staffing to deliver the existing level of service “which will increase costs further”.

In a change of policy earlier this year the Government agreed, as part of a new Public Service deal, to move towards rolling back the additional unpaid hours, which had previously been treated as permanent.

The Haddington Road agreement increased the working week to 37 hours for those who had been working 35 hours or less up to that point.

Those working more than 35 hours faced an increase of up to 39 hours.

The move to roll back the Haddington Road hours was a key demand of trade unions in talks that led to a Public Service pay deal last December.

Unions have disputed the cost estimates put forward by Government officials and said the unpaid hours were draining Public Service morale.

Dublin, 27 October 2021

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