Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Public Service Reform

Jack O’Connor, President of SIPTU, claims that the Government’s badly botched decentralisation scheme has now put at risk the union’s willingness to conclude a new social partnership agreement. However the damage is probably much worse than this.

There is widespread evidence of the urgent need for major reform of the public services. Whatever Government is elected next year needs to take on the outmoded work practices, absence of accountability, demarcation disputes, salary relativities etc which have ham-strung delivery of value for money service from a relatively well-paid and highly secure sector for far too long.

It is also clear that SIPTU, and other public service unions, regards that secure and well-paid employment of its members as the primary function of both the public service and the semi-state companies, rather than delivery of service and value for money to the public. While their members may not legally own the means of production, they certainly possess the next best thing - the means of disruption, and there’s no doubt about their willingness to use it, officially or unofficially, as witnessed by the recent train strike.

The serious damage caused to industrial relations in the public service by the crude political stroke of including decentralisation in the 2003 FF/PD budget will make the task of achieving meaningful reform all the more difficult.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent & the Irish Examiner.

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