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Croke Park deal: Unions reject Varadkar suggestion to allow redundancies

Trade unions are confused by the logic behind Leo Varadkar’s suggestions that some public staff should be laid off.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

TRADE UNIONS presenting public workers have dismissed suggestions from transport minister Leo Varadkar that any follow-up to the Croke Park Agreement should allow the enforcement of compulsory redundancies.

Varadkar yesterday suggested that the current deal had shortcomings, in that it required other parts of the public service to accommodate employees from other defunct quangos or agencies.

“One thing I think we do need to be able to do is compulsory redundancies, where you close down an agency for example,” the minister said on RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kenny.

Because employees could not be laid off, he said, “You save a bit, but not what you should be saving.”

The basis of the Croke Park deal, which runs until 2014, is that employees are protected from any compulsory redundancy, in exchange for agreeing to greater flexibility and cost-saving measures.

SIPTU vice-president Patricia King told TheJournal.ie that Varadkar’s comments illustrated a lack of understanding about the current deal, which was geared at ensuring greater fluidity of staff within the public payroll.

“The natural wastage and normal exits out of the public service, without any further employment, are being used as a tool to contain the numbers,” she said this morning.

There is no need for compulsory redundancy… the whole background of the Croke Park agreement, which he [Varadkar] clearly doesn’t understand, is to develop an integrated public service.

If you’re working in Agency A and it has to disappear, your skills and attributes… will then be utilised in another organisation. So instead of having to fill a gap and take in someone without experience, the corporate memory and skills and attributes are retained.

Varadkar’s comments, King said, ran “completely contrary to the ethos and theory” of the public service, and agreed that any government proposal to allow for compulsory redundancies would be a red-line issue for

Niall Shanahan, a spokesman for IMPACT, said the comments were “a bit of a red herring”.

“I’d be very surprised if compulsory redundancies were right at the top of the priority list” when the next deal was being negotiated, he said.

“Over the lifetime of the Croke Park agreement, we’ll see around 40,000 people come out of the public sector,” he said, adding that the “mass hysteria” surrounding the scale of public service retirements in February showed the concerns that surrounded any understaffing in the public sector.

“What the Croke Park agreement facilitates is keeping the services going as people leave the system,” Shanahan said.

Read: Croke Park deal saved €920m in second year, report says

More: ‘Croke Park must deliver more savings’: Mixed reaction to latest review

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Gavan Reilly

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