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An occasional columnist writes about the civil service… July 21, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Here’s a question for us all to consider. Has Eamon Delaney ever worked in the private sector? Okay, that’s most certainly a rhetorical question, clearly he has, at least in one form or another. And yet, the question does persist because in his latest missal in the SBP he is on a crusade against the civil service who – as the title of his piece is not shy to note – are apparently ‘still taking advantage of us’.

Why so? Because while he criticises Paschal Donohoe for his platitudinous approach as Minister for Public Expenditure (and by the way, what a good choice for that job, given how Donohoe exudes something of peak Bertie Ahern in his pronouncements) – though has to accept that the good Minister ‘in fairness’ has nixed ideas of pay restoration or ruled out bonuses, he (Delaney) is simply disbelieving of the following:

…in what was a truly astonishing admission (or boast), the minister said that he had ‘not come across anybody yet whose level of performance many demotion was prospect they would face’.

Delaney is stunned by this.

He continues:

As a claim, it was up there with the amazement once expressed by Brendan Howlin during a Newstalk interview, that someone could be fired from their job for not doing it properly! But is this not what happens all the time in business, sport and government.

Except, and I say this as someone with two decades or so experience win the private sector as well as working in the public sector on contract that is most decidedly not the what happens ‘all the time’ in those or other sectors (on this thread eamonncork gave a good overview of how an earlier effort by Delaney to put forward this argument was problematic) – and note too how he confuses demotion with firing. In the private sector I saw time and again people who were unfit for purpose left in positions, whether management, or what ever across years. Why so? Well the truth is that companies aren’t quite as quick to go thermonuclear as some of their cheerleaders in the media and commentariat might think (by the way, what this tells us about both the media and the commentariat is another interesting thing to consider. I once worked for a company which was R. Murdoch owned. Genuinely, in terms of redundancy payments etc, the best company I ever was in. Perhaps Irish media companies are less generous). And companies don’t tend to fire people for ‘not doing their job properly’ because that’s not a great way to operate. Hiring and firing people is a labour intensive process. If there’s a problem, best to bring people with you, make the effort to help improve them. Now, this isn’t true across the board and it depends on the level. If you work in a fast-food outlet or parts of the service industry or are younger it can be a lot less considered. And that is, at the least, an argument for unionisation in all workplaces.

But nonetheless Delaney’s view of commercial enterprises is some way adrift of the reality of most. And further what he is doing is misunderstanding the dynamic, and also confusing redundancies due to economic and business reasons which can lead to small or large job losses with problems in relation to employment which can arise for many many reasons and which can, usually, be solved with measures well short of demotion or redundancy.

Firing people should be a last resort, and only something that would occur at the end of a process. That he appears so unaware of this is enormously telling. That he is given a public platform to opine on it particularly so.

Of course it’s not really about hiring or firing practices for him or at least so it seems, it’s about increments and time off, and sick pay and all the other myriad complaints that Delaney has with public sector employment (again, conveniently forgetting that none of those are unknown in the private sector). It’s also about anti-unionism, and a notable lack of statistics or any real data bar one comment from Robert Watt, Secretary General at the Donohoe’s department, whose comment, perhaps predictably is about ‘underperformance’ rather than issues that would require firing, or necessarily demotion. And even there Watt notes that disciplinary codes have been streamlined, improved being another word I suppose.

But all this is irrelevant. Delaney has a manichaean view of such matters where rather than the civil service being actually quite well structured and fit for purpose it is – and one suspects always will be – an hotbed of laziness and shirking.

In a way his last sentence reveals more than he might think.

So it is within the Civil Service that change must come.
And come it must – to improve performance, give value for money but also to enhance and develop workers moral. Meaningful and hard work creators a better sense of well-being, as does risk and imagination, rather than a ob for life mentality which incurs paralysis.

What a strange way to view workers and work.

Faced with such hyperbole, and moralism (hard work, eh?), one has to wonder.

Comments»

1. ivorthorne - July 21, 2016

I’ve had relatives who’ve worked in admin positions within the pubic sector. They’ve commented that’s it quite relaxed and that there is an attitude of using sick days for holidays.

That said, I’ve worked in the private sector where there’s been a similar attitude – though maybe less relaxed. In some private companies I’ve worked for within admin they’ve actually had a more progressive attitude towards non-sick day sick days by allowing for “Personal Days” where you could just call in and say you weren’t coming in for no reason

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2. gendjinn - July 21, 2016

“Meaningful and hard work creators a better sense of well-being, …”

No it isn’t. It is the theft of your time for the benefit of others.

I want that f*cker on his f*cking knees scrubbing front door steps in Dublin in January. Every. Single. Day. All. Day.

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3. sonofstan - July 21, 2016

I wish I could remember who it was, but I read something somewhere by someone who probably knew what he – I’m guessing he – was talking about, that the civil service in Ireland, from ’22 until about the late ’70s, thanks the sort of enlightened attitude to what we would now call a work life balance, and a collegiate commitment to disinterested intellectual inquiry functioned, in the absence of widespread access to university education, as the nearest thing to an intelligentsia here, and as a place where people – OK, men – were granted the freedom to pursue the sort of interests that depend on security of tenure; Flann O’Brien would be an extreme example, but there were many others nurtured by a humane work environment sustained by managers who would have scoffed at ‘performance indicators’. That and the fact that it was, sexism aside (a big aside, granted), relatively egalitarian, certainly in comparison to the imperial model it was based on.

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gendjinn - July 21, 2016

There’s always been a universal basic income for certain clades.
Lets make it truly universal!

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Michael Carley - July 26, 2016

You could add Hugh Leonard to that, at least when he started off.

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4. JM - July 22, 2016

“…also to enhance and develop workers moral.” We generally get in early and say a decade of the Rosary before we start each day . True !

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5. shea - July 25, 2016

There was an article recently about 30,000 going for the civil service exam, mentioned in the article that an entry wage to the civil service was €400 before tax.

On that wage, you won’t be renting in dublin, highly likely that government employees are on family income support which is a bit mad.

more likely the state is screwing clerical officers than the other way around.

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