The Public Affairs Ireland conference on the Croke Park Agreement took place yesterday at the Croke Park conference centre and featured a range of speakers from various professional backgrounds.
The opening speech given by Minister of State for Public Service Transformation Dara Calleary stressed the need to reform the Public Service following the OECD review of the Public Service of 2008 and the subsequent economic crisis. He also spoke about how it will give certainty and confidence to both staff and management in an uncertain environment. &ldquoIt will provide a framework for public service pay determination over the next five years.”
Minister Calleary said that it was possible to restore order to public finances, in addition to reducing the deficit to less than 3 percent of GDP. He also outlined the savings of €27m across public bodies made by the National Procurement Service, which intends to make savings of €40m for this year. He urged public servants to show greater flexibility in implementing the changes in the agreement.
Philip Kelly, the Assistant Secretary General in the Department of the Taoiseach and a member of the Implementation Body spoke about the need to transform the public service regardless of the crisis, and to create a more sustainable model for greater efficiency. Mr Kelly said: “embedded in the actions set out in the Croke Park Agreement is a need for innovation in how we do our business. That requires us to capture ideas about redesigning the processes we use to manufacture the services we deliver and to change our administrative processes.” Mr Kelly also focused on integration of policy making and service in the public sector from a management perspective.
Shay Cody, General Secretary of IMPACT and member of the Implementation Body spoke about the need for public service management to “up its game” and said that management must allow staff and their representatives to have an into the development of proposals. Mr Cody stated that “the key phrase in the text is that the parties will work together”. Lucy Fallon-Byrne of National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO) concentrated on the topic of motivation in the public service and referred to forthcoming National Workplace Surveys that will detail morale in the midst of the economic crisis. Ms Fallon-Byrne stressed the importance of consultation as a tool to improve work place practices. “Consultation has the highest impact on worker well-being, as it reduces work stress and pressure and increases organisational commitment.”
William Slattery, speaking in a personal capacity, said that Ireland’s export strategy distinguishes us from other countries in Europe. “Our exports now largely consist of high value added manufacturing and services business because these sectors are still competitive on the basis of high Irish costs.” While Mr Slattery believes that further pay cuts should be avoided, he said that substantial savings need to be made from efficiency generation measures such as changing work practices, organisational restructuring, and the use of outsourcing in addition to the closure of agencies across all sectors. He also stated it is necessary to decrease numbers working in the public sector by 30,000 by introducing a voluntary redundancy programme and estimates this would save €2bn.
Harry Goddard of Deloitte stressed the need for greater shared services within the public sector, and advocated reform of service delivery model. Mr Goddard said that a shared services centre would have positive organisational impacts such as higher levels of automation, reduced staff requirements and improved career structures.
The chairman of the Implementation Body for the Agreement PJ Fitzpatrick outlined the process of negotiating the deal and spoke about the challenges that management and unions will face through the course its implementation. “It cannot be implemented by heads of organisations alone. Staff and unions must constructively engage in the implementation of the agreement.”
Mr Fitzpatrick also highlighted the importance of maximising the e-government process as a tool for development. He raised the issue of outsourcing as included in the agreement, and said that it was not a race to the bottom, nor will it be determined by hourly rates of pay. Mr Fitzpatrick stated that it was the task of the staff and unions to demonstrate “that the same service can be provided in house for the same or lesser cost”.
Carol Fawsitt a partner and head of Employment Law at Hayes Solicitors explained several legal issues arising from the agreement and stated that “the concept of redeployment within the Public and Civil Service is a significant change”. Under the terms of the agreement, if voluntary redeployment does not yield sufficient numbers, management will direct the redeployment of staff. This could also include cross sectoral redeployment.
The conference chairman Andy Cullen then introduced a discussion forum in order to give delegates an opportunity to question the panel of speakers.