The Mc Carthy Report and Dispelling the Public Service Myths... UPDATED

The Mc Carthy Report on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure, AKA An Bord Snip Nua, was published last week causing major consternation and discussion.

This report SUGGESTING how cuts of €5.3bn can be made is just that... a suggestion. A menu, if you like. It is very likely that the Government will take up as many of the suggestions as it thinks it can get away with ..... after all they do need to raise €3.5bn.

It is however, important to note that the Mc Carthy Report is limited to the Public Service and it's cost to the State, in that it is only one area pertaining to our current economic crises. It is absolutely NOT a stimulus package. In fact it's hard to see how the economy will receive a boost with people's spending power reduced. It is however prudent and necessary to cut Government borrowing........ €55mil a day is simply unsustainable. The Government would also be wise to consider job creation and protection etc in tandem with this Report, as it shouldn't be considered in isolation. Unfortunately they very rarely do anything that connects the dots.

The report was also limited in that it could not touch the very sensitive area of Public Service pay levels. It did do so though, in mentioning simply that there should be cuts. I just wish, having made a little detour from the rules it could have gone one step further and mentioned Top Civil Servants, Judges, T.D's etc ..... and their expenses, in particular. No mention either of limitations with regards to the cost of producing Reports that never see the light of day or ones that they do implement by cherry-picking what they like...or what they think they can get away with politically. How much did this Report cost, I wonder? Nor did it mention the exorbitant Consultancy fees paid out by various Departments? I couldn't see any mention of that. A recent Sunday Tribune article pointed out that Department of Social & Family Affairs recently spent €20m on computer Consultancy.... and now they intend withdrawing the DCA from some Special Needs children??

This country is in a mess but it is not a mess of the majority of it's citizen's making.... especially it's Special Needs citizens. Nor is it a mess of it's average Public Sector employee's making.

The Public Sector has become a punch bag for everyone, or so it seems to me. In the bad times, like others, we are such an easy target.

Now, before you click the "next blog" button just hear me out! This is NOT a pity-the-poor--Public-Servant post! Honest! I know I'll not dispel the myths but I would at least like to try to give you a better understanding. Maybe even tell you something that you didn't know and that might influence how you see us and give you a little glimpse at our side of the fence.The Public Servant is not just the faceless individual who makes decisions on your claims that are unfair .... usually they are adhering to rules set down by Top Civil Servants. They are parents just like you whose children go to school and are effected by education cuts, they have mortgages, food and utility bills. The majority live in your average 3 bed semi-d, just like you. Some even live in social and affordable housing. Some are married and some are single parents struggling on one wage to raise their families whilst working full-time. Some are married to Private Sector employees who have lost their jobs. Some are even parents of Special Needs kids ........ just like you. Oh .... and here's one myth I can DEFINITELY dispel ........ just like you we PAY TAXES!! We live among you, we are your fb friend, your twitter mate and your blogland pal. You just didn't know we are also a Public Service employee. Does knowing that make you feel any different towards us now?

Here's a very quick History lesson. In the period preceding the last Recession there was huge unemployment in this country and the then Taoiseach , Charles Haughey, took huge amounts of school leavers into the Civil Service over the period of a couple of years to help alleviate the problem. We were lucky enough to be included and started within 18 months of each other. Just to give you a scale of the numbers involved: it took Mr Jazzy about 2 years to get promoted to the next grade while it took me almost 10 years to reach the same level. Promotion was on seniority basis, provided you passed a very rigorous 4 day Taxation Exam known as 'The Barrier Exam'. In 31 years of full-time, exemplary employment Mr Jazzy has been promoted just twice and in my 25 years ( currently on career break) I have been promoted once. Neither of us will EVER be promoted again. EVER. One reason for increments. Seniority basis of promotion has been phased out and replaced with a totally flawed Competitive Based model. I have no objection to the concept of the new model but I've been through the process twice and it is truly flawed.... I would NEVER put myself through it again!

A job in the Public Service is a job for life...... our "good Government Job" as we used to say jokingly! Our "secure and pensionable employment".

In the 1970's and 1980's there were people who sneered at us working in the Civil Service. Honestly. My Aunt chastised my parents for "letting me work" there, she looked down her nose at me as , like most of the country, she hated civil servants. She would never, she assured us, let her daughter work there! We were the "yellow pack" of our era! But it was a secure job. In time the reverse was true.... people from the Private Sector, with Higher Education in particular came over to "our side". Attracted not by the salaries on offer but the security and family friendly working hour choices. Before I go any further let me dispel another possible myth... when you job-share in the Public Service you work half the hours and get half the salary and annual leave entitlements! There are a few Public Service supervisors who need that pointed out to them also .... believe me!

Fast forward a couple of years and the last Recession hit.... circa 1987. A recruitment Embargo was imposed on the Public Service. No replacing staff....but no job cuts (career breaks on offer) or pay cuts. This also affected promotional opportunities. At that time the highest Income Tax rate was 65% ( even hit 70% for a year or 2) and applied on relatively low income across all sectors. Mortgage rates hit the 16% mark too, the highest it went was 18.75% . Unemployment and emigration were rife. The result of these penal taxes etc was the creation of a Black Market economy for the poor and a new Banking System (i.e. Off Shore Accounts etc!) for the rich to stash the cash they didn't want taxed. And then the Government of the day brought in the Self Assessment basis of Taxation and, in time, the terribly unfair 1988 Tax Amnesty. Everyone I worked with in Revenue were appalled at this. Another way for the rich to get away with it. We, in Revenue, had no choice but to process these voluntary assessments. See what I mean about adhering to the rules?

Fast forward again and the Celtic Tiger is born, and the country prospers. The Public Servant continues as before...no real change in working conditions, or pay levels or promotional outlets. We benefited, like others, from Social Partnership which freed this country from crippling strikes. We also received proper training to do our job, as Customer care was now in fashion. And rightly so. Whilst things in the Private Sector changed dramatically. People ( not all, it must be said) were getting well paid for their work. There were company cars, Christmas Bonuses and Parties, Weekends away.... morale boosting weekends etc, etc. But, you see, that's the price we pay for our "Good Government jobs."

It is obvious that Teachers, Nurses and Gardai are highly trained to do their job. I don't know if you realise this but Revenue staff also receive a lot of highly regarded training. In order to deal with the aforementioned Black Market and Tax Evasion, huge resources (staff  Training) were put into the Audit area . I was happy to be part of that. The training was hard and took a while to complete. I was out there auditing companies books and records for about 10 years so I really am aware of the Tax Evasion going on and the extent to which the aforementioned company perks existed.

As a result of this highly regarded Training Revenue staff were head hunted by Accountancy Offices and also I.T companies ( investment in computer systems took off too) and left in their droves. To higher salaries and bigger perks. Train and Drain was rife in Revenue as in other Departments.

The rest of us stayed behind. We didn't take the risk. We wanted to be assured of a job in the bad times and the good times. That was the price we were willing to pay .... for job security.

But it got too much for the public servant , to see the private sector move so far ahead of us. We helped create the Celtic Tiger too... right? We worked hard ( yes, most of us do work hard) and paid our taxes too. We, in Audit collected from the Tax Evaders on behalf of the State and all taxpayers, that was our contribution also. And so the Bench Marking process came into being. It was agreed that there was indeed a case to be answered and so we caught up. For once. There was a price though. More Productivity and flexibility in work practises. That definitely was delivered in Revenue but more needs to be done there all over. Staff numbers can definitely be reduced due to Retirement, Career Breaks on offer and tackling the issue of long-term under-performing staff. It is not nice to work in a section always "carrying" a person who's always out sick etc, etc but gets paid the same as you.

But beware, a serious reduction in staff also means serious reduction in ALL services in ALL areas. A serious inter-Department re-deployment of staff should be considered .... I'm sure Unemployment Offices need some help ( but don't send any to the section reviewing DCA!!). This should be done in consultation with staff and staff should not be expected to move to way out locations. Remember though, re-deploying staff costs too as re-training is necessary.

Staff cuts where people are simply let go is not as simple as you think. Those of us who were employed before circa 1995 cannot claim the Dole. We need to live too and put food on the table... Just like you. By the way, even though there's much-to-do about our "generous" pensions they're not as good as they're being made out to be. AND, unlike most Private Sector employees we can't bump up our pension with the Old Age Pension as we're not eligible.

Public Service pay cuts are on the agenda again. We have already taken a huge hit with the Pension Levy, increased Tax rates, income Levies and loss of an agreed pay increase .... a hit of almost 15%. I KNOW Private Sector workers have lost wages AND jobs. But... not all have. I've made that argument before and apparently , per a recent Mercer Report only 9% have taken a wage reduction. Any new Bench Marking, based on foreign pay rates should take into account all aspects of living in that country. Cost of living, mortgage V rents, Taxation Systems etc. No cherry picking! I wonder what they'll do with Individualisation now that a lot of the women they coerced back into the workforce are now probably on the dole?? That system was imported from the Nordic countries.... without the generous maternity benefits etc. Cherry picking again! And remember, low pay can mean low staff morale and another "Train and Drain" when things turn around again.

Social Welfare cuts across the board?? Should there be any?? Now this makes me uncomfortable! Across the board may mean that they won't target cutting others out completely. Cost of living has come down ... but not the cost of visiting your Dentist or Doctor. But you don't have to worry about that on Social welfare. All I'll say is that we should be careful here. I've been arguing since the Pension Levy about how low can you cut people's salaries before it becomes more beneficial to be on the dole? Doesn't affect us in the pre-1995 Public Service World as we can't claim it. We either have a job...or starve. But it affects others. Apparently a recent Independent article reckoned a man on SW with 3 kids and full entitlements earns the equivalent of €55,000 pre-tax (can't find it to link it). Just think back to the abundance of jobs as the Celtic Tiger in full swing. In order to coax those on the dole back to work they had to phase out their entitlements over a couple of years and introduce Family Income Supplement. I mean the last allowance says it all.... Supplement the fact they're earning less going out to work!! This area needs SERIOUS evaluation. Otherwise we're headed back to the '80's (sounds like a good name for a musical!). The era of nixers and Tax Evasion.

The above is NOT a rant either, rather a chance to see our side ... just a little! There are areas that need discussion and serious evaluation. We didn't all get us here but we are all here now. All of us. Public Sector, Private Sector and those who have lost their jobs. We shouldn't be pointing to where, currently, the grass seems greener. We ALL need to pull together and one sector should not be penalised more than the other ... it should be across the board.

Lets hope we can all see each others point of view and see each other through this.

Take Care.

XX Jazzy.

UPDATE:

Just a couple of things to add. Things I've read in this weeks' news:

  • Hospital consultants receive a top-up of €25,000 on their €200,000 salaries this year! The absurdity of this was pointed out by a Dr John Barton. Ms Harney, when asked for a reaction, said she didn't think it was absurd and that he could refuse the increase if he wanted to??!! 
  • Fees for lawyers working for the Moriarty Tribunal have been reduced from €2,500 to €2,300 per day.... ah bless 'em. A paltry 8%. . 
  • In the same week they discuss reducing the minimal wage?? And also the Mc Carthy report suggests 10-15% salary reduction for EVERYONE. Why EVERYONE?? 
  • The Moriarty Tribunal has gone on for 8 years and per Denis O'Brien ( who, lets face it has an agenda anyway!) it's cost us €200mil so far. 
  • As we all know the electrician's were succesful in their claim for a salary increase and now lower paid Bank Officials looking for one. In the face of all of this there WILL be severe union reaction if there are cuts in Public Service pay. It will be hard for them not to react.
At least my concerns regarding Professionals Fees (Dentists, Consulatants etc) are legit! This area is to be discussed at the McGill camp this weekend!

4 comments:

  1. The only thing I will add Jazz, is that the HSE are once again tendering for someone to do "research" into their services. It seems that time and money wasting are endemic at certain levels; that's what pisses people off!
    xx

    ps. I would not wish one of the public servants who do answer the phone and call back and make it possible to get what you need, out of a job. What I would like to see is accountability at the highest level. Private sector style accountablity where you get sacked if you fuck up. and have to re-train.

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  2. Very eloquently put Jazzy. I don't think anyone begrudges the civil servant in the firing line but rather the fat cats making rediculous spending decisions on reports and research when the money would clearly be better spent on supporting the vulnerable in society. I wasn't aware that if you worked in a civil service job pre 1995 you could never claim the dole. I have a "secure" job as work for the HSE but have seen my hours halve over recent years (which suited me at the time as Munchkin needed extra attention) and yes I have to pay the pension levy and income levy. When Munchkin starts playschool in September, I will be able to work more hours doing home support but the funding isn't available so therefore I'll be stuck with my reduced hours. I never got home support personally as there wasn't enough coffers in the budget to provide services to families waiting on the list...

    xxx

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  3. Ah, the "good old 80's"... with the incredible interest rates and inflation... I remember it well...! ;-)

    Joking apart, I remember wondering at the time what the hell I was doing bringing two kids into this world when their only long term prospect was probably going to be immigration. How things changed, and then changed again!

    I think what "gets" to me is the waste, the lack of holistic thinking that has affected our whole public sector, and for so many years. Your description of the lack of promotion resulting in the Train and Drain phemomea is a typical example. I agree with you: those who don't pull their weight (I can think of a few!) should not be rewarded by security of employment, and those who go well beyond the call of duty (and again I can think of quite a few here!)should be rewarded by more than the "security" of employment. It is not the people that I would criticize, it's this most unfair system, and what to me is some very unecessary spending on "extras" - e.g. consultants on this, that, the other, and the reports they produce that are often never followed, or too often wrongly followed.

    At the end of the day, my view is simplistic but seems to be working in other countries, put more money into the economy, give people the means to spend, and all will kick start again.

    BTW, I spent close to 20 years sharing my live with a civil servant, I agree with you, the Tiger passed by...

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  4. Thanks Ladies. I honestly believe though, when someone says "civil servant" and starts their rant they do mean EVERYONE in the service...not just the top guys. I've experienced this for YEARS and if I got a euro for every time I was told over the phone by a disgruntled tax-payer :"I pay your wages" I'd be a rich woman now!

    Hammie: yes...Accountability is the "in" phrase and it's what's needed. Everywhere.

    Petunia: So much for "secure" eh?! We don't get the dole as we don't pay full PRSI ( so we pay full dental, optician costs etc) you see...with a secure, pensionable employment it was deemed we'd NEVER NEED TO CLAIM THE DOLE! So, how do they get outa that one?!!

    Nan P: Yes!! Stop cutting our (private AND public sector)spending power...the simplistic views ARE sometimes the best ones! I'm with you on that.

    Right now , the best place for school leavers is College/university...hopefuly things turn around before there's another mass exodus. Very few people went to college/university in the '80's.

    Education and getting people spending again is a HUGE part of the way forward. xx J

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