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Section 28. Modernisation and Flexibility

28.1 The parties to this Agreement will co-operate with flexibility and modernisation, including measures arising from changes set out in the non-pay terms of this agreement in the context of the NESC Strategy Report.

28.2 Sustaining Progress set out an extensive agreed programme of measures designed to achieve improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery. This programme built on the progress achieved in modernising the public service through the Strategic Management Initiative/Delivering Better Government in the Civil Service and similar frameworks in other sectors. The public service must continue to modernise and at a faster rate than heretofore if it is to continue to meet the expectations and requirements of our increasingly sophisticated, complex and diverse society. The parties reaffirm their full commitment to the further development and accelerated implementation of modernisation frameworks in each sector of the public service in order to secure the flexibility required to achieve the highest international standards.

28.3 The pay increases provided for in this Agreement are predicated on co-operation in the areas of modernisation and flexibility set out in Sections 28 to 32 of this agreement. It is agreed by the parties that implementation of such initiatives in the areas of flexibility and change will not give rise to claims for increased rewards for staff in the form of promotions, regradings, allowances or other benefits.

28.4 There is a well-established acceptance of the requirement for co-operation with modernisation and flexibility. It is not possible to set out a comprehensive definition of such co-operation which would cover every circumstance which will arise. However, the following paragraphs set out the key principles of organisational change and examples of specific areas of flexibility and change which are covered in this Agreement. These examples are not exhaustive. However, based on a reasonable assessment of any situation which is not specifically referred to, these principles and examples, taken together, provide clear guidance on the co-operation that is required.

Principles of Organisational Change

28.5 Work should be organised in a manner that ensures the provision of high quality public services. This may require change in existing structures and working methods to ensure that services are provided in the most efficient and effective way. The parties to the Agreement accept the following principles:

  • Co-operation with the introduction of new schemes and initiatives and changes to existing schemes; this is a routine feature of the work of public service organisations.
  • Co-operation with the implementation of policies, initiatives and reforms following Government decisions or the enactment of legislation (primary, secondary or EU).
  • Acceptance that changes in the volume and nature of work, technological innovation and changed business requirements may lead to a need to change the way in which work is organised, changes in staff numbers, a redistribution of tasks among staff, changes in the staffing mix or skills mix of the organisation and more flexibility in regard to reporting.
  • There will be situations where existing work procedures must be adapted to respond to work requirements and traditional methods of performing particular tasks will have to be changed.
  • The parties recognise that the growth in the size of the paybill must be kept at a sustainable level and that therefore the total numbers employed must be contained. Within that context, priority must be given to the delivery of essential services to the public.

In accordance with the partnership approach there will be appropriate consultation with staff as set out in Section 28.13 of this Agreement. Where there is disagreement regarding the application of these principles in particular cases, the matter will in the first instance be addressed by way of local discussion and, if still unresolved, it will, in accordance with the provisions of Section 27.11 above, be referred to the appropriate forum for consideration and the parties will accept the outcome. 

Team Working and Cross-Functional Working

28.6 There will be situations where work can be discharged in the most effective manner by assigning particular tasks to a group comprising people in different grades and disciplines. The operation of such a group may require variations in traditional reporting relationships involving members of the team reporting to another member in a different discipline or cross-organisational working. As already provided for under the terms of previous agreements, all of the parties will co-operate fully with initiatives in these areas and it remains open to management to implement such initiatives in accordance with the provisions of this Agreement. 

New Technology and eGovernment

28.7 Co-operation with the introduction and utilisation of new technology will continue. It is accepted that the use of new technology may necessitate significant change in work processes in order that the benefits of technology will be maximised. 

28.8 eGovernment projects are a growing feature of work in the public service and have the potential to provide existing, combined and new services to the public in a more effective and efficient way. There will be full co-operation with the design and implementation of these projects, including cross-organisational projects, and with the organisational and structural change which is required. Where necessary, appropriate and timely training will be provided to staff. 

Service Delivery Options

28.9 It is accepted that there can be situations where, without affecting the essential ethos of the public service, work can be carried out or services delivered more effectively or efficiently, or both, by the employment of temporary staff, contracting out of work to the private sector or outsourcing it to other public service bodies or a combination thereof.  

There is a variety of instances where it is recognised and accepted that this is already the case and these will continue.  

In exceptional situations involving temporary pressures or peaks, or in order to avoid excessive delays in the delivery of services, management may, at its discretion, have the work undertaken on this basis. Unions will be notified in advance of initiatives of this kind in accordance with Section 28.13 below.  

Other work may also be undertaken on this basis where agreed through normal industrial relations mechanisms. Where the parties involved cannot reach agreement in discussions on this matter, the matter may be referred to the public service sub-group of the NIB for consideration. If the matter cannot be otherwise resolved, the sub-group may decide that the issue involved should be referred to the LRC and, if necessary, to the Labour Court for binding determination; where a Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme applies, the issue shall be referred to the Conciliation machinery under the Scheme and, if unresolved, to the Arbitration Board, acting in an ad hoc capacity, for binding determination. 

Shared Services

28.10 There will be co-operation with the introduction of shared services between public service and related organisations where this can give rise to efficiencies or cost savings.  

Examples of areas where shared services will be possible include, but are not confined to, HR, Finance and Accounts, Payroll and Superannuation Management, ICT (including telecommunications and data centres), Procurement, Data Entry/Capture and specialist legal and secretarial services and areas where unusual or unexpected needs arise. 

Attendance Patterns

28.11 The standard working week of most public servants will remain unchanged. However, to facilitate the work of organisations and to provide improved customer service delivery, there are needs in certain areas for changes in HRM practices to provide services outside what would be regarded as traditional working hours. These needs may be met in some cases by voluntary arrangements and flexible working or, where this does not adequately meet the need, by the recruitment of staff on the basis of part-time working or atypical work patterns. Discussions will be held between the parties to give effect to this commitment in the sectoral modernisation agendas as appropriate and in the sectoral and organisational action plans; human resource and remuneration issues, if and where they arise, will also be dealt with in these discussions. 

Redeployment of Staff

28.12 The parties accept that redeployment of staff/posts may be necessary on foot of changing business patterns or priorities or to respond to urgent work demands.  

Management will have the discretion to redeploy staff/posts, not just within the same location but also within defined areas to be agreed at the level of the sector or organisation, as appropriate. 

Management of the introduction of Change and New Developments

28.13 In accordance with the partnership approach, unions will be informed in advance of all new workplace-related initiatives which have a significant effect on staff, the reasons for them and the proposed implementation date. Notification will be given in advance and in sufficient time to allow discussions with the union(s) concerned to take place (due regard being given to situations of emergency). Such discussions will cover the nature of the changes involved, the reasons for them and the main impacts on staff. The discussions will be approached in a partnership manner and will be concluded in time to allow the changes to be introduced by the proposed implementation date. Subject to this, it is accepted that management have the right to implement changes in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement. In any case where a dispute in relation to such changes is being processed through the relevant industrial relations machinery in accordance with the procedures set out in Section 27.9 of this Agreement, staff will co-operate with the changes while the issue is being so processed.