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Orthodoxy… and public opinion. April 24, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
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Here’s an entertaining one. Stephen Collins was dissecting the most interesting polling data from the IT/Ipsos MRBI poll on government policy (and by the way, how many acronyms can a polling company squash into one name?). Anyhow, we’ll get to the results in a moment. But note his treatment of two different findings from the poll.

He introduces it as follows:

The strategy of introducing new taxes like the household charge as an alternative to income-tax increases is rejected by voters by a margin of more than two to one.

There is an even stronger rejection of the Croke Park agreement, with a massive majority in favour of reforming or scrapping the deal that protects public-sector pay and pensions.

And then writes:

Voters were asked if they agreed with the Government’s strategy of opting for measures like the household charge this year and a property tax in the future as an alternative to income-tax increases.
Just 28 per cent said the Government strategy was right, 63 per cent said it was not right and 9 per cent had no opinion.

Okay. And a little more followed with no editorialising about this really quite remarkable finding.

And then onto the next finding.

Voters were also asked their views on the Croke Park agreement under which the Government made a commitment not to cut the pay and pensions of public servants in return for improved productivity.
Asked if the agreement should remain in place, be modified or be abolished, just 16 per cent say it should remain in place, 43 per cent want it modified in some way, 22 per cent want it abolished and 19 per cent have no opinion.

Which he then follows up with:

Given that Labour Ministers are much more strongly committed to the continuation of the deal than their Fine Gael counterparts, the poll should give them food for thought.

Erm… I’m not sure I’d read that quite the way he did. 63 per cent determinedly against a policy is – to me – a stronger rejection than 22 per cent who want a policy abolished and a further 43 per cent who want it modified in some unspecified fashion. And to be honest there’s little ambiguity about the options as regards income/consumption tax, in comparison to the other issue of CP.

But it’s not that that’s most striking so much as the fact he editorialises on one but not on the other. Why shouldn’t the consumption/income tax finding give more pause for thought than Croke Park?

Why does he pick out one and not the other?

Of these things an orthodoxy is fashioned.

On Croke Park some intriguing data:

In party terms, Labour supporters were most hostile to the Croke Park agreement, with just 13 per cent of them in favour of continuing with the deal as it stands. Fine Gael voters were a little more supportive, although there was still a large majority in favour of change.

And:

Fianna Fбil voters are much more supportive of the deal than those of any other party, which is hardly surprising given that it was initially agreed when the party was in government.

You’d wonder at that. Is it those self-ascribed as LP voters, that small and diminishing body of people who are ‘most hostile’ whereas others who were LP voters have jumped ship to other formations they might regard as better able to support the agreement? And the FF finding is just bizarre given the evident antipathy to CP from members of the FF PP.

Does this mean CPs days are numbered? I’m sceptical. As Michael Taft and others have noted, the benefits of CP far outweigh the negatives to the Government, not least in providing a most convenient spur to PS employees to keep in line or else. And the financial benefits of reworking it substantially (and note that the largest block is for modification not abolition) seem in the general scale of things to be so over stated as to not actually exist.

And more interesting information in other aspects of the poll.

Asked if the Government should stick by its commitment not to cut welfare rates, 69 per cent said they should not be cut, 25 per cent said they should and 6 per cent had no opinion.
In class terms, the strongest support for cutting welfare comes from the best-off AB voters and the strongest opposition to cuts comes from the poorest DE category. However, a majority of voters in every social category is opposed to welfare cuts.

But putting all else aside isn’t it a remarkable indictment of the government that its efforts to introduce this raft of charges has led to a situation where close enough to 3 out of every 4 voters in this survey believes that income tax is a fairer mechanism to fund various services. One can have quibbles about the campaign against the household tax in regard to the danger that it might inadvertently generate a no-tax attitude amongst the general society, but its effect, and the more general opposition, seems to have conveyed the central message that non-progressive taxes (in the technical sense) are inequitable and inappropriate. And perhaps it is the fact there’s a broad consensus of opinion amongst most of the opposition against these charges/taxes and that this consensus including as it does Independents, ULA, and SF (however active that opposition), seems fairly broad based even if the actual numbers of opposition deputies is more limited than some might think.

After three decades of Thatcherism and the constant drumbeat of neo-liberalism that’s an oddly hopeful message to take away from this.

And politically, given the context approaching the government they might do well to consider the implications of that very carefully indeed.

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Comments»

1. ejh - April 24, 2012

the strongest support for cutting welfare comes from the best-off AB voters

Type “+1″ if at this point you said to yourself “no really?”.

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2. Bartley - April 24, 2012

And the financial benefits of reworking it substantially (and note that the largest block is for modification not abolition) seem in the general scale of things to be so over stated as to not actually exist.

The more pertinent question to ask would be what, if any, savings the CPA has actually yielded thus far, net of increased pension costs, massive outlays on tax-free gratuities, reduced income tax / pension levy take from those shuffling off to an early & extended retirement, and most bizarrely the costs involved in leave reform that resulted in higher vacation entitlements.

So over stated as to not actually exist kinda sums it up nicely.

The biggest long-term impact of the CPA will be seen to be the transfer of adjustment costs from older public servants onto the next generation of their colleagues.

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smiffy - April 24, 2012

“The more pertinent question to ask would be what, if any, savings the CPA has actually yielded thus far, net of increased pension costs, massive outlays on tax-free gratuities, reduced income tax / pension levy take from those shuffling off to an early & extended retirement, and most bizarrely the costs involved in leave reform that resulted in higher vacation entitlements.”

On top of the substantial pay cuts already inflicted on public sector workers, I’m sure you forgot to mention.

Eaten bread is soon forgotten.

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

Those pay cuts predated the CPA, which was spun as alternative to acheiving savings via further pay cuts and/or actual redundancies.

In any case, much of the savings from the original pay cuts have since been reversed by the effects of increment-creep and also senior post-holders retiring early on a pension calculated on thier pre-cut salary.

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EWI - April 24, 2012

In any case, much of the savings from the original pay cuts have since been reversed by the effects of increment-creep

Half of all increments go to clerical workers (on an average pay of €22,000), with those at the bottom of each scale receiving most.

Now, given that you were concern-trolling two comments up over “the transfer of adjustment costs from older public servants onto the next generation of their colleagues”, what do you have to say about that?

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

@EWI

Half of all increments go to clerical workers (on an average pay of €22,000), with those at the bottom of each scale receiving most.

Can you source that claim?

Seems almost impossible to be true, seeing as clerical workers are a relatively small minority within the public service (despite the civil service being CO-heavy), have lower salaries leading to below-average incremental jumps, and have a much shorter incremental scale than say teachers leading to clericals being stuck on the top of scale for longer.

Also the CO scale is structured so that the points are largely equidistant, save some slightly larger jumps near the top of the scale.

May you meant to write …

If you exclude the majority of public servants and only look at the civil service, then ignore the absolute cost of increments and only look at the number of employees receiving them, and then consider only the percentage increase represented by the increment not its actual value … then lower-paid clerical officers are actually the top benificiaries!

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

@EWI

Half of all increments go to clerical workers (on an average pay of €22,000), with those at the bottom of each scale receiving most.

Can you source that claim?

Seems almost impossible to be true, seeing as clerical workers are a relatively small minority within the public service (despite the civil service being CO-heavy), have lower salaries leading to below-average incremental jumps, and have a much shorter incremental scale than say teachers leading to clericals being stuck on the top of scale for longer.

Also the CO scale is structured so that the points are largely equidistant, save some slightly larger jumps near the top of the scale.

Maybe you meant to write …

If you exclude the majority of public servants and only look at the civil service, then ignore the absolute cost of increments and only look at the number of employees receiving them, and then consider only the percentage increase represented by the increment not its actual value … then lower-paid clerical officers are actually the top benificiaries!

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smiffy - April 24, 2012

“In any case, much of the savings from the original pay cuts have since been reversed by the effects of increment-creep and also senior post-holders retiring early on a pension calculated on thier pre-cut salary.”

Really? To what extent?

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WorldbyStorm - April 24, 2012

Increments are cost neutral as far as I’m aware. I too am puzzled by this point about ‘creep’.

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smiffy - April 24, 2012

Broadly cost neutral in a normal situation, where those retiring or being promoted at top of scale would be replaced by those coming in at the bottom of the scale, keeping the average payment in a particular grade relatively stable.

The situation at the moment, obviously, is distorted, given that people leaving aren’t, by and large, being replaced.

But, yeah, the ‘creep’ is very disingenuous, as if salary scales weren’t common across the private sector, particularly in larger organisations. And, similarly, increments weren’t an issue before the the 2009 pay cuts, after which there was about of week of handwringing in the media about the sacrifice the public service was taking, then it was back to business as usual, looking for something else to bash workers with.

As someone, I think on here, said before: public servants could offer to work for free, and IBEC would still be complaining that they’re wearing out the carpets.

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3. dmfod - April 24, 2012

So much of what comes out of polls depends on the questions asked. Rather than asking opinions on specific taxes or specific cuts, polling companies have generally until now asked people if they favour ‘cuts’ or ‘tax increases’. This usually produces a preference for cuts as most people imagine tax increases will affect them more than undefined cuts, the impact of which is harder to imagine in the abstract and could include seemingly painless options like reducing waste. But when people are asked to choose between specific cuts and taxes, which makes both more real, the outcomes are very different.

I’ve also yet to see a poll asking people if they would favour a wealth tax, or even better, increases in corporation tax, a 3rd rate of income tax on high earners & wealth tax vs. household & water charges, increases in the standard rate of income tax and social welfare cuts.

That would present the choices available much more clearly and would probably produce a much more left wing answer than the usual questions, which are chosen by the rightwing newspapers that commission them and inevitably reflect their framing of current events – hence the incessant polling about Croke Park.

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Ed - April 24, 2012

I would very much like to see the IT hire a company to ask the following question:

“Given that pay and conditions are generally higher in the public service (as we in the media tell you almost every day), and given that trade union membership is much higher in the public service, do you believe workers in the private sector should have the right to join trade unions, and be represented by their union when pay and conditions are being negotiated?”

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LeftAtTheCross - April 24, 2012

If not the IT then someone else, e.g. SIPTU’s Liberty paper? But would the mainstream media give the results any coverage. Maybe Fintan O’Toole or Vincent Browne.

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EamonnCork - April 24, 2012

The complaint that the Public Sector should ‘share the pain’ always reminds me of DUP man Gregory Campbell’s statement that he had no sympathy for the Civil Rights movement because, ‘they were looking for rights which I didn’t have.’ As Ed points out the problem is not that the Public Sector has conditions it’s not entitled to, it’s that the Private Sector should have these conditions too. Simple enough.

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

@EamonnCork

Not really as simple as that.

The kind of terms & conditions enjoyed in the public service could only be replicated accross the economy at the cost of a massive dip in productivity and loss of competitiveness, or an unsustainable increase in taxation (if the state were to bear the cost of the additional sick days, extra vacation time, shorter working hours, earlier retirement on higher pensions etc).

Some meeting in the middle might be feasible, if the state were for example to address chronic absenteeism among its own employees and divert the savings to part-fund slightly better sick-leave arrangements in the private sector. But the wind is currently blowing the other way, as the state reduces sick-pay support for lower-paid private sector employees, while doing little to address the its own absenteeism issues.

And BTW its not only union membership that sustains such conditions (though that was certainly a huge factor in the days of partnership and mutual back-scratching with FF). Rather the primary enabler is the lack of any real competitiveness pressures where the service is provided monopolistically and/or the funding structure is set up to sustain rent-seeking.

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Ed - April 24, 2012

Thanks for the little sermon in mainstream – which is to say right-wing – economics. But IBEC and its members, who labour mightily to keep unions out of private-sector workplaces, know exactly what they are doing. They appreciate, as all workers should, that solidarity is strength, and will do everything in their power to break that solidarity. The spiteful, peevish campaign against public-sector workers, whose themes you are happy to regurgitate, is one of the main tools in their arsenal.

The benefits of ‘competetiveness’ can of course be seen in the roaring good health of Ireland’s bank sector, where competition ensured that senior management would not be overpaid and that sensible loan strategies would be pursued.

Tell me now, which has made a bigger contribution to the present economic crisis: the bloated, degenerate, monpolistic, rent-seeking, back-scratching, flaccid, burdensome, parasitical industries of the public sector, or the lean, vigorous, dynamic, thrusting, purposeful banking sector?

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smiffy - April 24, 2012

“Some meeting in the middle might be feasible, if the state were for example to address chronic absenteeism among its own employees and divert the savings to part-fund slightly better sick-leave arrangements in the private sector. But the wind is currently blowing the other way, as the state reduces sick-pay support for lower-paid private sector employees, while doing little to address the its own absenteeism issues.”

Again, this appears to be based on little more than Sunday Independent talking points. If you’re not aware of something, then it mustn’t exist. There’s a huge push on, within the public service to address the issue of sick leave, far more formal arrangements about managing it than existed previously, and sanctions in cases where illness-related absences exceed a certain level. As for the reduction in sick-pay support to the private sector, which is coming, how do you know that won’t be applying equally in the public sector?

On the issue of ‘chronic’ absenteeism in the public sector, which you suggest exists, I’d be interested in seeing the basis for that. I am aware that every now and then IBEC issues a press release about this, where the publicly available details of public sector absences is compared to a private survey undertaken by IBEC of its members (and, to be best of my knowledge, IBEC only counts actual working days missed, whereas the public sector figures count Saturdays and Sundays as absences if the illness continues across a weekend). Hardly a fair comparison, even leaving aside the crude instrument of failing to take into account different working conditions, different jobs etc.

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WorldbyStorm - April 24, 2012

I think you’re correct smiffy. My recollection is that IBEC’s sick leave absences model is seriously flawed for precisely the reason you suggest.

But there’s a deeper point here. Bartley is unfortunately presenting a parody of the situation as regards public sector conditions being so immeasurably better than private sector ones – though there’s no question that outside certain bastions of the private sector and middle and upper management there are somewhat better conditions in terms of leave and so on.

But they’re not extraordinarily better at least not at low to mid levels. I worked in the private sector from 1990 to 2004 and entered the PS on contract in that last year where I’ve worked since on contract. I gained… 1 extra holiday. There was no significant change in my sick leave allocation and absenteeism is treated as a serious issue. And so on and so forth.

Worth noting as well that the psychology of a job for life appears in large part to have gone, perhaps because of a media frenzy over CP and before it or perhaps because of the fiscal situation as described by the government.

I think there’s quite some projection going on and a sort of inverse wishful thinking.

There’s also the issue that the public sector is simply unlike jobs I’ve experienced in the private sector. I worked for some pretty big companies including a couple of multinationals. But when you’re working close to a Dept you can see how much bigger again the PS is and that that changes the nature of the exercise.

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

@dmfod

Youve hit the nail on the head there.

Given the choice between cuts/taxes that impact on them or taxes/cuts that only effect the other guy, what is 90% of the population gonna favour?

In everyones mind there is always a richer, more privileged, less deserving group who could and should take the hit instead.

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EWI - April 24, 2012

In everyones mind there is always a richer, more privileged, less deserving group who could and should take the hit instead.

If you were an alien from Mars who arrived in the morning, and was only allowed to read and watch the Irish media of the past four or five years without being able to go outside your little spaceship to meet real people, just who would you believe the “richer, more privileged, less deserving group who could and should take the hit instead” he’d take away might be?

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dmfod - April 24, 2012

@Bartley- There’s a very good reason why that is the case. It’s because there actually is a ‘richer, more privileged, less deserving group who could and should take the hit instead’ of the vast majority of the population on low to middle incomes.

A tiny elite owns a huge amount of the wealth in this country and is largely composed of the same people who caused the crisis in the first place. After a small blip in 2007-8 for some, they’re back to piling up the cash and laughing at the rest of us.

I’d really be for expropriating their wealth entirely and starting over, but failing that the least we can do is tax the bastards.

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

@dmfod

The problem with tiny elites is that they are, well, tiny.

From a tax yield point of view, its simply impossible to shield the vast majority from increases without a 100% tax rate at the top. Now I know you favour that, but in the real world it would never fly, for many reasons. For start the FDI/MNC sector, the only engine of growth we currently have, would be killed stone dead. Think about it, 100k jobs forming the vast bulk of what makes Ireland an advanced economy, would whither away. It would be like stepping back to the 1950s in one fell swoop.

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LeftAtTheCross - April 24, 2012

Think about it, 100k jobs forming the vast bulk of what makes Ireland an advanced economy, would whither away.

Expand on that argument please. Why would the FDI/MNC sector be killed sone dead?

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4. Bartley - April 24, 2012

@LATC

Expand on that argument please. Why would the FDI/MNC sector be killed sone dead?

100% tax rates over say €100k would make it impossible to relocate their management cadre over here, also severely restrict their ability to recruit top-notch tech specialists locally (as anyone mobile would have already scooted off to the US or UK).

The nature of compensation at those levels is primarily share-based. Even if those restricted stock units dont end up delivering the hoped-for several 100k, the thought that they might is key to incenting those 80 hour weeks. If the entire value is to be expropriated, might as well not bother or just go the whole hog and scoot off to the valley.

And in the case of those addled FDI-ers seeking to set up closed shops, there would be no union leaders left to negotiate with. Unless of course they set up a concall from Monaco or the Isle of Man ;)

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LeftAtTheCross - April 24, 2012

Bollocks Bartley. Most FDI hi-techs, which is the area I work in, are staffed by Irish management all the way to the top, not by an overseas cadre. For any ex-pats that are parachuted in to get new groups up and running I would imagine it’s not beyond the imagination of the MNC to devise a compensation package that would be attractive regardless, until such time that the local management could keep the show on the road.

The point about mobility is a red herring. Once people get kids and mortgage they stop being mobile. And skipping off to silicon valley isn’t an option for the 100k workers you referenced previously.

As Jean Luc Mélanchon said in a recent Guardian article about his proposal to introduce a 100% income tax band, if people decide to leave, bye bye.

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EamonnCork - April 24, 2012

Bollocks is right. But really what’s the point in arguing with Bartley and his Chicken Licken view of the world? You’ll just feel all Politics.ie for the rest of the afternoon.

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Mark P - April 24, 2012

It genuinely never ceases to amaze me that some people here seem to feel it’s a purposeful use of their time to exchange views with someone so profoundly dishonest.

His contributions here are one extended exercise in trotting out right wing talking points, one after the other. Those who engage with him explain the fallacies in one part of his argument and he moves on to the next talking point. And then, a little while later he moves back to the original one as if it hadn’t been dealt with and begins the process again.

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

@MarkP

It genuinely never ceases to amaze me that some people here seem to feel it’s a purposeful use of their time to exchange views with someone so profoundly dishonest.

Maybe because all the folks wedded to a closed world-view with all debate shut-off have long since emigrated to North Korea, where theyre experiencing a minor administrative delay in getting access to the internets. I feel sure though theyll show up online any day now ;)

But in any case, Im heartened to have progressed from race baiting to mere dishonesty.

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Mark P - April 24, 2012

Race baiting?

Are you referring to your apparent inability to understand an analogy which was perfectly clear to other readers here and which did not involve calling you a racist?

I say apparent because of course the problem probably wasn’t your reading comprehension. On that occasion, as on every other occasion on which you comment here, the problem was your poisonous dishonesty

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

@LatC

For any ex-pats that are parachuted in to get new groups up and running

Isnt that where the only real management value lies in an MNC context? i.e. facilitating the transfer of IP/expertise from the outside, not just curating an pre-existing setup?

Losing the local David Brents wouldnt be much of an issue, losing the those who bridge back the mothership would on the other hand be a major problem.

I would imagine it’s not beyond the imagination of the MNC to devise a compensation package that would be attractive regardless

Now we go through the looking glass … 100% tax rates are OK because the MNCs are sneaky enough to concoct schemes to facilitate tax evasion?

Defeat the purpose, or?

The point about mobility is a red herring. Once people get kids and mortgage they stop being mobile. And skipping off to silicon valley isn’t an option for the 100k workers you referenced previously.

The point wasnt that all or even many of the 100k would head off, just the small high-value minority with the impossible-to-replace specialist skills.

As Jean Luc Mélanchon said in a recent Guardian article about his proposal to introduce a 100% income tax band, if people decide to leave, bye bye.

Did he consider how the salaries of those who elected to stay might self-adjust to take account of the new threshold over which no one may earn?

Of course the maximum salary any sane company need pay, or any sane employee would demand would be the 100% threshold minus one cent. Meaning the state ends up collecting less income tax than before. Meaning the whole purpose of shielding the majority from tax increases fails at the first hurdle.

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fergal - April 24, 2012

Hi LATC and Melenchon also added that if bosses shag off,we’ll just have to find cheaper ones!

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Ed - April 24, 2012

Funny how the people at the top manage to keep adding to their privileges and pushing back the boundaries of ‘economic necessity’ – every time they get something they didn’t have before, it becomes absolutely vital to economic success, any move to reverse it will transform us into a Somalia on the edge of Western Europe.

Cowen’s last budget before the recession cut the top rate of income tax by 1% – the economy had been growing for well over a decade before that, so it would seem to have made little contribution to growth, but FF insisted that it couldn’t be reversed once the recession started, otherwise the ‘job-creators’ would all leave the country. Somehow they had managed to survive before.

Now, of course, it’s essential that top management at TNCs should be given tax-free status for private school fees for their children. If anyone tries to reverse that FG-Labour innovation they’ll presumably be told it would lead to economic meltdown. This argument is infinitely flexible, it can be used to justify anything and everything, just as long as you remember the mangra – “poor people are incentivised by losing money, people in the middle are incentivised by the fear of losing money, rich people are incentivised by getting more money”. Isn’t it remarkably surprising that the wealthy elite should have formulated such a doctrine and put such effort into propagating it – it’s not as if they stand to benefit from it now is it?

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Jim Monaghan - April 24, 2012

God, be careful Ed. These talented people might just go to Samalia and turn it into utopia.They are sensitive souls.

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5. Bartley - April 24, 2012

@WbS

Increments are cost neutral as far as I’m aware. I too am puzzled by this point about ‘creep’.

Cost neutrality is not the same as free.

But even that odd concept requires a constant supply of joiners at the bottom of the scale. Without that, and recruitment into the PS has slowed significantly, you get an upward creep in terms of average wage costs for a given seniority level.

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smiffy - April 24, 2012

Yes, but lower wage bill, given that leavers aren’t being replaced.

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WorldbyStorm - April 24, 2012

Sure, of course cost neutral isn’t free – who said it was? But it does mean that the costs of increments was incorporated into costs of financing the PS from the off. It’s not additional. And there’s nothing odd about it. In my experience with two multinationals there were de facto increments.

Secondly, as noted earlier, increments benefit those at lower levels more than those at higher levels. What’s the betting that if there is a modification of CP it will be the latter rather than the formerthat see a change..

Thirdly, even with the closing of recruitment the overall costs don’t increase even if average wages increase because as noted in my first paragraph the costs of increments are built into the overall costs of financing the PS. In fact the costs will be reducing anyway because of people leaving the PS and not being replaced – or as a friend of mine said, as against four years ago when there were four colleagues working with him doing the same job spec well, there’s now just him doing it badly because it’s too much for one person.

Methinks you doth protest too much.

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

@WbS

Sorry youve lost me there with the argument about the cost of increments being built into the financing structure of the PS from the get-go.

Are they paid out of some sort of sinking fund that was set up long ago, and can be used for that purpose?

Or are they financed like everything else out of current taxation and borrowings that will have to paid back by future generations?

Sure some in the private sector get similar increments, but few enough outside the state-owned sector continue to get them after their employer becomes effectively insolvent.

On the point about staff leaving, sure your friend is now working their socks off. But the point is that their 3 colleagues who left continue to cost the state almost as much as before, when the net outlay is properly calculated (salary – tax – levy + pension + gratuitity + the odd bit of consultancy). There is some saving, but its completely out of proportion to the skills/productivity lost. Also the fact that the 3 departees were self-selecting practically guarantees the state will get the worst possible value on the restructuring costs.

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LeftAtTheCross - April 24, 2012

Also the fact that the 3 departees were self-selecting practically guarantees the state will get the worst possible value on the restructuring costs.

Facepalm.

I second Mark P’s point, there is nothing to be gained by engaging here.

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WorldbyStorm - April 24, 2012

Got to say, I’m shifting towards LATC’s position on this.

What ‘odd bit of consultancy’? And self-selecting?

You simply don’t know the circumstance. The attrition rate was 2 were at the end of their career and retired as normal as they would have anyway, one was a year or two off and took the deal.

If you persist in painting everything in the most negative light possible it points to you arguing in bad faith.

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6. Joe - April 24, 2012

“The more pertinent question to ask would be what, if any, savings the CPA has actually yielded thus far” – Bartley.
Last year (2011), the health service delivered higher activity levels than in 2010 – with a cut in budget of c€650 million and reduction of c3000 staff. How did it do this? The staff redesigned how they deliver the service – redeployed, changed rosters, took on extra work and extra functions and so on.
It’s called productivity. It is some of the savings yielded by the CPA thus far.

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Bartley - April 24, 2012

… with a cut in budget of c€650 million and reduction of c3000 staff

The question is how many of those 3k fewer health workers are now enjoying a pension and/or lump sum that was simply accounted for in a different way to main health budget? But whichever budget it comes from, its still money that has to be borrowed and paid back with interest.

Taking the total net cost to the state including salary, OT, pensions and gratuities paid out, subtracting off tax and pension levy collected, we\’d see savings far less than the €650 million claimed, most likely a vanishingly small sum if anything.

Of course we do have 3k fewer staff, though this reduction could have been achieved with far less service disruption and damage to the aggregate skill-set via targetted redundancies as opposed to a very expensive self-selection scheme.

The approach favoured depends on whether you value the service providers above the service users and tax-payers. Which is fine of course, lets just call a spade a spade.

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WorldbyStorm - April 24, 2012

That’s actually a flawed argument you present there at the end. One doesn’t have to value one over the other. One might also take a page from any serious private sector HR book and note that valuing staff, particularly those in ‘frontline’ positions is of paramount importance to any institution. Why some believe it makes any sort of sense in the context of rapid and rather destructive changes in work practices in the PS to actually demoralise them further escapes me if the object of the exercise is genuinely positive outcomes for all concerned.

There’s also the basic point, one which faced me once in the context of being a director of a private enterprise that shedding staff costs money. There’s no free lunch when it comes to this.

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Joe - April 25, 2012

“Taking the total net cost to the state including salary, OT, pensions and gratuities paid out, subtracting off tax and pension levy collected, we\’d see savings far less than the €650 million claimed, most likely a vanishingly small sum if anything.”
You’re just plain wrong again there Bartley. Equal and, in many cases, greater service was delivered across the health service last year for €650 million less. A saving of €650 million, that’s what that is. Wages and pensions were paid out of the €12.5 billion or so that it cost to run the service. And I know this scandalises you but yes, workers in the public service do get paid for their work, those who work extra hours do get paid overtime and, horror of horrors, those who have retired do get paid pensions.
I won’t be replying to any more comments from you because I don’t want to further engage with your anti-worker, pro-owner agenda.

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Bartley - April 25, 2012

@Joe

Equal and, in many cases, greater service was delivered across the health service last year for €650 million less.

That figure of €650 million could not be net saving due to the CPA, given that the implementation body reported gross savings accross the entire public service (of which the health service accounts for less than one third in headcount) of only €680 million.

And that claim about the service being equal or better is frankly ludicrous – how can a better service be delivered in the face of ward closures, lengthening waiting lists, and cancelled elective surgery?

… your anti-worker, pro-owner agenda.

The Jim-Larkin-esque rethoric is misplaced.

The owners in this case are no William Martin Murphy types, rather the ordinary users of the service and the tax-payers who fund it.

And the workers are no downtrodden proles, rather highly educated and highly paid professionals, in most cases more so that their unfortunate patients.

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Ed - April 25, 2012

Any divergence from the Sunday Independent catechism is necessarily bad, to be choked off without engagement. Not really how we roll here in the real world, but hey such blinkered zealotry would be right at home in the employers’ paradises.

Bartley, if any of us want to read the rambling fact-free shite the Sindo comes out with, we can buy the paper ourselves. Hell, we even have a regular post on this blog summarising its highlights. As has been pointed out several times by posters on this thread, your only rhetorical strategy is to move the goalposts every time you stub your toe on reality.

1) Makes baseless assertion plucked from the Sindo talking points

2) Assertion challenged

3) Demands “hard facts”

4) Hard facts supplied by critic

5) Ignores hard facts, makes new baseless assertion

6) Rinse and repeat

Speaking as someone who works in the private sector, and whose partner works damn hard for the HSE in dangerous, stressful conditions, only to have to put up with a shrieking wall of sound from the media talking about the urgent need to take an axe to the bloated, parasitical public service, I am not inclined to indulge your shrill, mendacious trolling.

To use another Americanism, you’ve jumped the shark – time to move on. By all means tell yourself that people who aren’t prepared to waste their time on you are evil totalitarian fanatics who want to set up a Gulag in Leitrim – baseless persecution complexes are de rigeur on the Right these days, by all means equip yourself with one

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7. Bartley - April 24, 2012

@smiffy

Theres a huge push on, within the public service to address the issue of sick leave, far more formal arrangements about managing it than existed previously, and sanctions in cases where illness-related absences exceed a certain level.

Any hard data on the efficacy of this change?

Do you expect this new process to more or less effective than PMDS was at addressing under-performance? Recall that the vast majority somehow managed to secure the highest two ratings under PMDS, whereas almost no-one got the lowest. Running counter to the experience in practically every other large organization in the entire world.

As for the reduction in sick-pay support to the private sector, which is coming, how do you know that won’t be applying equally in the public sector?

Because it would make no difference what-so-ever.

The change is that the state is pushing the burden for financing sick pay onto the employer. When the state itself is the employer, its a zero-sum.

@WbS

My recollection is that IBEC’s sick leave absences model is seriously flawed for precisely the reason you suggest.

Different certainly, but flawed?

To only count the actual productive days lost and not the non-productive ones is (a) the only sane methodology to adopt or (b) seriously flawed becuase it doesnt match up with another highly questionable model?

In any case, given the distribution of PS absence lengths (a seriously long tail if I ever saw one), I don\’t think the practice of counting contiguous weekend days can some anywhere near accounting for the delta in average sick leave across the two sectors. In fact it werent for a mysterious tendancy for one-day sickies to be thrown on a Monday (source: C&AG as opposed to the Indo), it wouldn\’t make that much difference at all.

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WorldbyStorm - April 24, 2012

I wasn’t referring to the day count, though I don’t see precisely why – given smiffy’s point that shouldn’t be built into how one compares the two areas if the methodology adopted by the PS is different and weights more days into the mix.

But my gripe is that it’s built on a self-selecting return of data from companies. It’s therefore not comprehensive. So yes. Flawed is precisely the term I’d use.

Re PS absences, the figures on those in education are instructive. A tiny minority on very long periods as might be expected, the rest more or less conforming to a norm.

BTW, again from my private sector experience. Saw no end of Monday sickies there.

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smiffy - April 24, 2012

“Any hard data on the efficacy of this change?”

Well, no, obviously, as it’s still under discussion. But it’s notable that you aren’t aware of the moves underway to address absenteeism.

And that’s, in a nutshell, why I’m bowing out here. You don’t really appear to any grasp on the facts of what you’re talking about hear, rather than what you pick up in the media, and when asked for something to back up your claims (e.g. quantifying the savings you claim were reversed by ‘increment creep’ etc.), asked for facts that can’t be drawn from the Sunday Independent, you move on to something else.

And then you ask for hard data?

That’s me done. I’m not getting drawn into this kind of pissing contest.

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Bartley - April 25, 2012

@smiffy

Well, no, obviously, as it’s still under discussion

Still under discussion? How many years after the CPA was signed?

So no results results yet, any hope of an outcome while we\’re still young?

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8. Bartley - April 24, 2012

@MarkP

the problem was your poisonous dishonesty

An odd, almost child-like tendancy to view differing viewpoints in terms of the goodies and the baddies. Any divergence from the catechism is necessarily bad, to be choked off without engagement. Not really how we roll here in the free world, but hey such blinkered zealotry would be right at home in the few remaining workers paradises.

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Mark P - April 24, 2012

As I’ve already pointed out, Bartley, you don’t actually “engage” with anybody here at all. It’s just an endless litany of cretinous right wing talking points cribbed from the Irish Times. As each one is answered you move on to another before eventually returning to the first as if the conversation never took place.

I have no interest in you, or in the opinions you regurgitate here, except in so far as you manage to turn potentially interesting discussions into endless remedial courses for dim right wingers as people with more patience than sense seek to engage with you and explain to you the basic errors of logic in your posts and claims.

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EamonnCork - April 24, 2012

‘Workers paradises’ ‘That’s how we roll in the free world’ and, my favourite, ‘but hey.’
Brilliant stuff.

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9. Bartley - April 25, 2012

@Ed


2) Assertion challenged

3) Demands “hard facts”

4) Hard facts supplied by critic

Lets review the hard facts supplied so far:

1. Half of all increments go to clerical officers.

Impossible.

2. The CPA resulted in savings last year of E650 million in the health service.

Impossible.

3. The cost of increments is incorporated into costs of financing the PS from the off.

Huh?

4. Resolute action is being taken against absenteeism.

Extended discussions are in train and set to continue into the foreseeable future to nail down the totality of the action that might be taken, in the context of partnership and the spirit of non-victimization.

5. 100% tax rates would not impact destroy the Irish MNC/FDI sector because some French dude made a smart alecy bye-bye comment in the Guardian.

There\’s a reason not even France has tried that.

6. Bartley is poisonously dishonest.

Now thats just mean …

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Ed - April 25, 2012

I apologise, I had you wrong. This is a full summary of your approach:

1) Makes baseless assertion plucked from the Sindo talking points

2) Assertion challenged

3) Demands “hard facts”

4) Hard facts supplied by critic

5) Ignores hard facts, makes new baseless assertion

6) Rinse and repeat

7) Comes out with fatuous non sequitor hoping to get a rise out of people

8) Claims to be unaware of the many hard facts with which he has been supplied

9) Whines about someone calling him out on his time-wasting nonsense

10) Yawn
10)

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EamonnCork - April 25, 2012

(11) Watches entire left wing project crumble when confronted with the cold hard steel of common sense conservative thought.

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WorldbyStorm - April 25, 2012

Bartley, that’s a bit disingenuous of you as regards 3 (I won’t even get into 1-3 which seem to be based upon your belief that your reading of the situation – which already is shown to be shaky in the extreme – is the definitive one -or to put it another way what Ed said.).
Increments are part of the wage structure extant in the PS. They’re not additional costs. They’re incorporated into the costs of the PS, and have been for decades.

And they’re not some bizarre flower that only grows in Irish soil. Increments are found in other civil services (UK national and local govt) and where not found there are often bonus systems (or as in some cases annual pay increases). Nor are they exclusive to the PS, either here or elsewhere, pay ladders being IIRC first introduced by corporations (which in terms of size are more nearly analogous to public sector organisations). There’s a whole host of reasons why they make sense. In some areas (ironically such as my own) there is no scope for future movement in the PS (even were I a statutory PS worker which I”m not), so there’d be no scope for wage rises. Secondly there is an element of experience etc being important on a job. It certainly has been in my years in the PS

Re 4. you’ve entirely ignored my contribution as a semi-detached outsider in the PS re absenteeism. There’s no forseable future on this given the rhetoric emanating from Howlin et al. It’s all change in the PS. Though frankly the problem was widely overstated – I noted you didn’t make any response to my point about the flaws in IBECs ‘survey’.

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Bartley - April 26, 2012

@WbS

I won’t even get into 1-3 which seem to be based upon your belief that your reading of the situation – which already is shown to be shaky in the extreme

I think Ive shown it to be numerically impossible for the most PS increments to be go to lower-paid clerical officers. There simply arent enough of them, nor enough points on the CO incremental scale, nor sufficient weighting towards the bottom end of the scale (in terms of numbers of recent entrants, or disportionate salary jumps at the lower end). If anyone wishes to present a data-driven argument to refute that, I would be happy to see it.

Also I dont think that claim that €650 million in CPA-related savings p.a. where made in the health service, can be made to stand up (otherwise the implementation body must have hugely under-stated the total savings acrueing across the entire public service).

And I doubt you or any one else sane here could defend the claim that health service is equal or better than before the cuts were applied. Otherwise you would be cutting the legs off your entire agenda, and coming over to the dark side (welcome, its getting a bit crowded over here! ;) ).

Increments are part of the wage structure extant in the PS. They’re not additional costs. They’re incorporated into the costs of the PS, and have been for decades.

See I find that argument very weak, as it conflates:

(a) established custom and practice

with:

(b) an assertion on costs not being additional.

No-one is contesting (a), but thats not the point.

On (b), the costs are additional in the sense that amount paid out by an insolvent employer is increasing year-on-year.

The costs are rising in the context of fewer if any new entrants joining at the bottom, resulting in a bulge moving upwards through the incremental scale.

(This is the creep effect I mentioned, in the sense of mission creep for example, though it seems to have caused offense … maybe term is too overloaded by its use as a pejorative in other contexts, or the novel verbal usage on Tallafornia meaning to sleazily put the moves on members of the opposite sex).

And they’re not some bizarre flower that only grows in Irish soil. Increments are found in other civil services (UK national and local govt) and where not found there are often bonus systems (or as in some cases annual pay increases). Nor are they exclusive to the PS, either here or elsewhere, pay ladders being IIRC first introduced by corporations

Sure, I get all that. But the point is that neither UK government nor General Motors are insolvent at this time. The Irish state is.

The bizarreness is not so much the historic existence of increments, more their continueing existence when the state is effectively bankrupt and is savagely cutting elsewhere.

All the arguments about an increment freeze disproportionately impacting the lower-paid have the whiff of the fig leaf. It would not be beyond the wit of man to simply exclude anyone on below average wages (as defined by the CSO) from the freeze.

I noted you didn’t make any response to my point about the flaws in IBECs ‘survey’.

Thats a good point, which I missed in a first reading.

Self-selection can cut both ways …

Ive a serious absenteeism problem, so heck yeah I\’m gonna vent about it to IBEC and return that survey!

or,

My workforce is mature and responsible and Im proud of their exemplary attendance record, which I intend to boast about by filling out the IBEC survey form.

But either way, these data are unreliable.

However we can draw inferences from things like:

– comparisons with reliable international data on sickness rates

– the long tail in the PS absence length duration distribution, versus the maximum length sick leave payable in the private sector

– the cost of sick leave benefits paid to private sector employees via the social welfare system

In any case, regardles of the reliability of IBEC data, I dont think youre asserting that the PS sick-leace figures reported in the last A&CG report are anything but unacceptable, or?

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10. WorldbyStorm - April 26, 2012

I think Ive shown it to be numerically impossible for the most PS increments to be go to lower-paid clerical officers. There simply arent enough of them, nor enough points on the CO incremental scale, nor sufficient weighting towards the bottom end of the scale (in terms of numbers of recent entrants, or disportionate salary jumps at the lower end). If anyone wishes to present a data-driven argument to refute that, I would be happy to see it.
That would be wonderful if you’d done any such thing. But you haven’t referenced any hard data whatsoever. EWI’s claim may be incorrect, but you’re entirely wrong to think you’ve managed to refute it by simply claiming otherwise.
Also I dont think that claim that €650 million in CPA-related savings p.a. where made in the health service, can be made to stand up (otherwise the implementation body must have hugely under-stated the total savings acrueing across the entire public service).
And I doubt you or any one else sane here could defend the claim that health service is equal or better than before the cuts were applied. Otherwise you would be cutting the legs off your entire agenda, and coming over to the dark side (welcome, its getting a bit crowded over here!  ).

You may not think there’s €650m savings in that area, but again you’ve yet to provide any data to refute that claim. All you’ve done is dispute that claim – no more.
And no one here is claiming that the health service is equal to or better than before the cuts were applied. How on earth could it be? There have been cuts and skimming back monies/productivity from CP isn’t going to alter that fact. There may be balance sheet savings, or may not. I’d imagine there probably are, but that doesn’t necessarily or inevitably translate into a ‘better’ health service. Indeed I’d be profoundly dubious that tehre’s any clear relationship between cuts and productivity, or indeed CP and productivity not least because a demoralised staff is unlikely to increase productivity, whatever about maintaining at a given level.

See I find that argument very weak, as it conflates:
(a) established custom and practice
with:
(b) an assertion on costs not being additional.
No-one is contesting (a), but thats not the point.
On (b), the costs are additional in the sense that amount paid out by an insolvent employer is increasing year-on-year.
The costs are rising in the context of fewer if any new entrants joining at the bottom, resulting in a bulge moving upwards through the incremental scale.
(This is the creep effect I mentioned, in the sense of mission creep for example, though it seems to have caused offense … maybe term is too overloaded by its use as a pejorative in other contexts, or the novel verbal usage on Tallafornia meaning to sleazily put the moves on members of the opposite sex).

What relevance you think the last comment has escapes me.
But whether you find that a weak argument or not it happens to be the case. Increments are built into the wage / scale structure of the PS. The costs are not additional to those costs – in the sense that they have to be found outside that structure. They’ve been built into from the off. The costs can’t be rising in any meaningful sense because they were built in from the off. The ‘bulge’ you refer to is irrelevant, because there was always going to be a cohort of PS workers who would be on point x of a scale during their career – they would always have to be paid that rate and that was a given that was budgeted from from the off. There’s no creep because they’re not additional or unexpected costs.
It’s precisely the same as if they made all PS workers below 50k redundant. The cohort would be paid significantly greater wages than the previous larger cohort but no new costs would have been incurred in doing so. Costs would in fact have gone down overall. And even as these 50K+ workers went through their own scales the costs of giving them increments would be no greater than it had been otherwise.
This is fairly straightforward stuff.

Sure, I get all that. But the point is that neither UK government nor General Motors are insolvent at this time. The Irish state is.
The bizarreness is not so much the historic existence of increments, more their continueing existence when the state is effectively bankrupt and is savagely cutting elsewhere.
All the arguments about an increment freeze disproportionately impacting the lower-paid have the whiff of the fig leaf. It would not be beyond the wit of man to simply exclude anyone on below average wages (as defined by the CSO) from the freeze.

The Irish state is not insolvent in any meaningful sense given that we have funding for the next number of years, nor is it insolvent in the sense that absent bank debt this situation would, even from an orthodox perspective, be particularly problematic in financial terms – and in the broader sense that it could, for example return us to a, say, 2000 tax base or 1995 tax base, with taxes equal to what they were then (at both higher and lower levels) clearly there’s considerable scope for revenue generation outside of the parameters of IMF/EU. But, and this is crucial. The Government, and its predecessor, made a conscious decision to prefer cuts to tax increases. They had an alternative choice and chose not to take it. I notice you don’t in all this actually reference how much or little increments are as a part of the PS wage bill.

However we can draw inferences from things like:
– comparisons with reliable international data on sickness rates
– the long tail in the PS absence length duration distribution, versus the maximum length sick leave payable in the private sector
– the cost of sick leave benefits paid to private sector employees via the social welfare system
In any case, regardles of the reliability of IBEC data, I dont think youre asserting that the PS sick-leace figures reported in the last A&CG report are anything but unacceptable, or?

I think it’s telling where sick leave is highest. Front line areas in health for the most part. I also think it’s essential to look at the hard data in terms of provision of sick leave and how much is being used. Teaching is a good example. Sick leave provision is in some instances used to be considerable. Actual take up of that full provision minimal – bar one or two outliers.

If we compare the situation with the UK, in 2011 in various departments the averages spanned 9.2 days in the Minsitry of Justice, Dept of Education 16.8 days, Culture 16.1 days, Environment/Food 17.7. There are for admin officers and assts, low grades in other words. There’s no overall average, but those are clearly high figures (Treasury was 3.6, one wonders why). In an admittedly entirely unscientific averaging of those totals we find that the average number of sick days is… 12.6.
In the RoI the overall average is 11.3 in the Civil Service. Can that be improved? Of course it can. We see that with the cutting of teachers uncertified sick leave there’s been a positive effect. But teachers uncertified sick leave was cut to 7 days. The same as the CS Depts already labour under. So it strikes me there are other issues at work here. Again the overall mood music directed at the PS is unlikely to help with these matters. Having worked in private sector operations going to the wall I know how sick leave and absences tend to jump. The dynamic is not dissimilar.
And what’s often forgotten is that that people genuinely get sick. There’s not statutory right to sick pay in Ireland in the private sector, something which may depress sick leave substantially because people keep working in companies that make no provision for it, even though unfit to do so because they cannot afford to do otherwise. I know in various lower wage jobs I did in my time that was very much a factor. And even in larger established enterprises which I worked in there was a definite gradient as regards the toleration of sickness. New/younger staff were afforded less discretion, longer employed/older staff were given much more.
What I find a little disheartening about your analyses is the way in which they gloss over the problems and contradictions in the private sector while continually focusing on the public sector and in such a way as to make it appear that nothing has changed, nothing is changing and nothing will change.
That’s simply not the case – as we see with uncertified days for teachers. I doubt anyone here is arguing for no changes, no standardisations and so on. But to ignore that they have happened already and are continuing to do so is to present an unbalanced picture.

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Bartley - April 26, 2012

WbS: EWI’s claim may be incorrect, but you’re entirely wrong to think you’ve managed to refute it by simply claiming otherwise.

Well Ive explained exactly why EWIs claim cant possibly be true. Do I really have to copy & paste the entire clerical officer salary scale and contrast it with the teachers scale for example? But regardless of the CO payscale structure, there are nowhere near enough clerical officers in the first place – the CPSU has 13,000 members, with a relatively high penetration rate. Even with low private sector style union membership rates, there\’s no way that 13k could be extrapolated up to anything within a country mile of the numbers required to gobble up most of the public sector increments.

WbS: You may not think there’s €650m savings in that area, but again you’ve yet to provide any data to refute that claim.

Data: €680m gross savings across the entire public service.

Source: the CPA Implementation Body annual report http://per.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/Implementation-Body-First-Progress-Report.pdf

Claim: the health service accounted for over 95% of the CPA savings.

Refutation: it couldn\’t possibly have, as cursory scan of the Implementation Body reveals an order of magniture more than 5% of the saving originating outside the health service. I refer you to Table 2 on page 12 of the report cited above.

WbS: And no one here is claiming that the health service is equal to or better than before the cuts were applied. How on earth could it be?

Joe: Equal and, in many cases, greater service was delivered across the health service last year for €650 million less.

Bartley: I rest my case.

What relevance you think the last comment has escapes me.

Probably too low-brow for your taste, WbS. I was ruminating on why the word creep caused offense. Obviously the term has multiple meanings, one being the pejorative as in: get thee from from my blog, you right-wing creep! Another being a verbal construction frequently used on a recent reality TV program: yiz were creepin\’ in the night-club, ya cheatin\’ bastard!

Increments are built into the wage / scale structure of the PS. The costs are not additional to those costs – in the sense that they [do not] have to be found outside that structure. They’ve been built into from the off. The costs can’t be rising in any meaningful sense because they were built in from the off. The ‘bulge’ you refer to is irrelevant, because there was always going to be a cohort of PS workers who would be on point x of a scale during their career – they would always have to be paid that rate and that was a given that was budgeted from from the off.

A-ha, finally I see where youre going wrong, emboldended above.

There simply is no multi-year set-aside budgetting to cover PS payroll, the way an insurance company for example makes a charge on its books to cover the costs of future claims. There is rough projection of future PS payroll/pension costs all right, but if a new nurse is taken on for example, in no sense is funding ring-fenced for a 40 year career with salary increments applied at the appropriate points. Instead the funding for his salary increases does actually have to found every year. There is no magic structure into which the funding for future increments has been sunk in advance. It is extra money and it has to be found somewhere.

… nor is it insolvent in the sense that absent bank debt this situation

But you and I well know there is no absenting the bank debt at this stage.

for example return us to a, say, 2000 tax base or 1995 tax base, with taxes equal to what they were then (at both higher and lower levels) clearly there’s considerable scope for revenue generation outside of the parameters of IMF/EU.

Bring it on!

But a restoration of 1995 tax levels would involve significant tax rises across the board, and I can just imagine the hue and cry around this parish to shield low to middle earners from the tax rise, thus hollowing out the potential yield from the get-go.

I notice you don’t in all this actually reference how much or little increments are as a part of the PS wage bill.

IIRC Howlin costed it at one point as €180m p.a. for the core PS excluding LAs, but I dont have the exact figures to hand. Either way a substantial chunk of change when compared to the projected yield of recently announced contraversial charges, or indeeed cuts.

I think it’s telling where sick leave is highest. Front line areas in health for the most part.

Interestingly the trend in the health service is not so much correlated to frontlined-ness, more to job status in a weird way. IIRC doctors have the least sick time, next lowest are paramedical specialists, then nurses, then household staff, with porters coming out top of the charts.

I doubt anyone here is arguing for no changes, no standardisations and so on.

Fair nuff, the jury is out, I await the next A&CG report ;)

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WorldbyStorm - April 26, 2012

Ever seen the job porters do in hospitals in terms of its physical stresses? And you’re surprised?

As regards your point re increments saying I’m going wrong is a bit silly – no? it’s part of the wage/pay scale/grade structure. Even if costs vary year on year the structure remains the same. To complain about variations is pointless. There would be those anyhow. As indeed there would be in any private enterprise because flexibility is built into the process. It’s not extra money. Particularly, and this is important given that numbers are falling in the PS and therefore had the status quo ante remained the costs would have been greater again. I really don’t see why this is so difficult to get. Increments and all costs are lower than they were. Increments are part of the structure. If you’re arguing they’re not, or that they should be jettisoned then you have to argue from a position that you are happy to alter the structure. Grand, no problem as far as I’m concerned, but don’t pretend they’re not a structural component of the CS wage bill or that somehow the money for them is somehow an extra on that wage bill.

Re 1995/2000, I think you might be surprised at how socialists and social democrats would view such matters. As long as progressive (technical sense) taxes are the outcome then I suspect increased taxation across the board would be acceptable – particularly given that 1995 / 2000 the tax bands were arguably more progressive than currently.

Cheeky re the low brow comment.

No one bar Joe! I can’t to be honest see how it would be possible to take that much out and retain previous levels of service (output being a much more variable issue, but who knows?).

re Clerical staff, as I said, you hadn’t provided chapter and verse, and in all honesty I can’t see why you didn’t.

And are you claiming savings of €680m don’t exist? I’m unclear on that, though i see your point re the health sector. Still, again if you want to underpin your argument best to provide referenced data from the off.

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Bartley - April 27, 2012

@WbS

On the increments, youre conflating being part of the so-called structure with the question of whether the increments involve extra or additional money.

From an individual point of view, for someone employed on an incremental scale, they expect to get their increment every year, so in that sense it is not an windfall.

However from an aggregate financing point of view, the money required to fund incremental increases is indeed additional, as no prior provision has been made to cover these costs.

And yes, I am arguing that the structure should be altered. This has been done before (paycuts and pension levies werent part of the structure until recently) and without doubt will be done again (the less justifiable PS allowances are being lined up for the chop).

BTW structural alteration cuts both ways, for example PS pensioners automatically getting the same increase as serving post-holders was only put on a solid footing in the 1980s.

Im not so much pretending that increments are not a structural component, as questioning whether being part of the structure confers any special status on increments that would lead to their cost being somehow being met out of ringfenced and guaranteed funding.

I can’t to be honest see how it would be possible to take that much out and retain previous levels of service.

Agree.

Re 1995/2000, I think you might be surprised at how socialists and social democrats would view such matters.

I\’d love to hear that enunciated more clearly, as many of the left fell for and actively participated in the look-how-many-we-can-take-out-of-the-tax-net foolishness in the FF/TU partnership era.

Incidently the USC brings already us close to 1995 rates (27% & 48%). If we were to revert to those rates and itegrate the USC into the PAYE system, it looks like low-to-medium earners would face an increase, while higher earners would pay marginally less tax (41% on taxable income plus 7% USC on gross income > 48% on taxable income).

If, on the other hand, you were talking about retaining the USC, then obviously we\’d overshoot the 1995 rates by a significant margin. Not necessarily a bad thing, but we have to clear about where that would led on marginal rates (>30% and ~55% respectively, neglecting PRSI).

And are you claiming savings of €680m don’t exist?

No. More that the net savings are far less.

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WorldbyStorm - April 27, 2012

I genuinely am at a loss as to how a pay structure, funded out the public purse which incorporates incremental scales can see the latter regarded as extra to the funding of the pay structure as a whole. It really does seem like a semantic (and expedient from the position your arguing) distinction. The money for the public pay bill has to be found to pay for the structure as a whole. I can as easily say that you’re making an entirely artificial distinction between different parts of the pay structure.
That’s fair enough about wanting increments removed. I disagree with that position for a number of reasons.

Re the USC I’m no fan. I’d do away with it.

I’d be interested to know what level of savings you think CP is delivering.

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