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Sunday Read – Outsourcing, pensions, balloting.

Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) confirmed what SIPTU Health representatives have long since said, that outsourcing is not a cost-effective way of delivering public services.

The review found that the privatisation of service delivery “has not emerged as systematically viable options for public service provision”.

It says this may be related to cultural resistance towards outsourcing among trade unionists, public service managers and politicians.

The OECD found that the Second Reform Programme had by and large been successful in completing the majority of the activities it set out to achieve but that by focusing on outcomes Government can help to overcome vested interests that resist reform.

It notes that public service numbers fell from a peak of 320,387 in 2008 to 288,217 in 2013, but by the end of last year had risen again to 306,578.

These numbers confirm the immense contribution SIPTU members and public service workers have made over the crisis years by delivering additional services with less staff. The OECD review cites savings from additional working hours, reduced pension benefits, and sick leave.

The OECD notes that more efficient public procurement was predicted to deliver savings of €500 million out of a government spend of €9.5 billion a year. Those savings were closer to €160 million in the first three years to the end of 2015, and €300 million of enabled savings to the end of 2016.

The OECD team noted problems in recruiting procurement specialists, due to a shortage of such professionals.

It said moves to improve transparency and accountability had been largely successful, thanks to legislation on freedom of information, protected disclosures, and lobbying.

There were 230 actions in the Second Reform Programme, but it was not immediately apparent which of the 230 should be prioritised for closer attention, or were key to delivering impact for citizens.

The OECD says that many of the changes require specialist skills in areas like digitalisation and data science, but that these were difficult to find in a civil service system which emphasises generalist profiles.

They warn that the employer may have to look at non-financial motivators including career paths and flexible working opportunities to recruit the right candidates.

In other news, SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell took to the airwaves last week after Liberty Hall was inundated with phone calls from members irate about the ERSI report into the pension age. Bell was on Today with Sean O’Rourke in the morning discussing the ERSI proposals to extend the retirement age to 70.

According to the State-supported, Economic and Social Research Institute workers should not get the State pension until they reach the age of 70

Moving the statutory retirement age to 70 they say would counteract a fall in the workforce and the rise in the number of pensioners which currently sees the State’s bill spiral by €1bn every five years due to our ageing population.

Mr Bell described the proposals as “ridiculous and regressive” and called for a serious negotiation with Government to defuse the ticking pension time bomb by considering a second pillar pension system.

You can see the video report from TV3 here.

Meanwhile, voting on the proposed new pay deal, the ‘Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020,’ is continuing in workplaces across the country. SIPTU members who are eligible to vote can do so up until 9th August if they want to have their say.

The elected SIPTU National Executive Council has recommended acceptance of the proposed deal, which was the outcome of over two weeks of negotiations that concluded last month. Now it’s up to the members, and SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, has urged all members to use their vote.

“The proposed agreement will deliver increases in pay and pension protections for all health workers, plus important safeguards on outsourcing as well as incremental credit for HSE interns. The most important thing now is that all members have their say and don’t let someone else decide their future for them,” he said.

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