Belfast Telegraph

Bid to scrap 'privilege' days fails

Civil servants will retain two "privilege" days at Christmas and Easter after a Government plan to scrap the perk was rejected by an arbitration board.

The Department of Finance claimed 4.6 million euro a year could be saved if senior staff lost the days while lower-paid workers had them incorporated into their annual holidays.

But unions branded the move illogical, insisting it was sparked by public and media pressure and would save nothing.

A Civil Service Arbitration Board concluded the Government failed to demonstrate how costs could be cut and said the move could spark a level of grievance among staff that would outweigh any benefits.

Brendan Howlin, Public Service Reform minister, said he was disappointed by the decision: "The public service reform agenda was a central element of the general election and all parties agreed on the need for constructive public sector reform," he said.

"Therefore, it is disappointing that the unions could not engage in a more positive manner on a concept on which all sides agreed was out of place."

The Government is now going to pursue the issue across the broader public service at the recommendation of the arbitration board.

The privilege days date back to British rule and were originally given to mark the King's Birthday and Empire Day. They survived independence, with staff taking them at Christmas and Easter.

The arbitration board said there was no distinction between privilege days and annual holiday days, and claimed the Government had not demonstrated significant savings.

"Had it been demonstrated before that the reduction in leave days being proposed would lead to significant real savings, that provided enhanced services to the public, the Board would have felt obliged to respond more positively," it concluded. "The difficulty is no such outcome was demonstrated. On the contrary, it seems the change would create a sense of grievance disproportionate to any gains which might accrue."

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