The independent body established to make recommendations on the implementation of a Government commitment to resolve the issue of the so-called ‘Haddington Road hours’ resumed work this month, following the summer break.
Earlier this week, Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan led the union team at a further oral hearing of the body, which was established under the Building Momentum agreement to make recommendations to address the HRA hours.
The agreement commits the parties to “recognise and accept” that this and other specified HRA issues are “outstanding matters to be resolved as part of this agreement.”
The union argues that the removal of the additional hours need not lead to additional costs, reduced productivity or poorer service quality, and says it can be largely achieved within the €150 million set aside for the purpose under the Building Momentum public service agreement.
Although this was contested by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) in its opening submission, Fórsa says there has never been a systematic management attempt to measure any “supposed productivity benefit” of the additional hours.
And it says the additional unpaid working time, which was introduced as an austerity measure eight years ago, continues to be a debilitating drain on morale and productivity across the civil and public service.
The main union submission – from the ICTU Public Services Committee – pointed out that virtually all other measures, including a third temporary pay cut for staff earning over €65,000 a year, have since been rescinded.
On gender, unions say the unpaid hours fell hardest in areas like nursing and other health professions, clerical work, and libraries, which are disproportionately staffed by women. This obliged many female public servants to make difficult changes to finely-tuned arrangements for balancing the working day or night with childcare and other caring responsibilities, often at significant financial cost.
“The introduction of the additional HRA hours worsened the gender pay and pensions gap as many female workers were obliged to seek part-time arrangements, retire early, or opt for reduced pay rather than reduced hours,” it says.
The body is to report this year, and initial implementation of its recommendations is to commence in 2022, with €150 million set aside for this purpose.
Provisions necessary to roll-out any remaining recommendations are to be dealt with “in the context of the 2023 [Budget] estimates,” on the basis of engagement between the parties to Building Momentum.
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