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Section 29. The Civil Service

The Civil Service

29.1 Commitment to Modernisation and Change
The parties commit themselves to co-operation with this next phase of modernisation and change in the Civil Service and, in particular, to modernisation in accordance with the paragraphs which follow.

The parties are committed to completing and building on the modernisation programme in Sustaining Progress.

The parties reviewed progress with that programme and agreed that:

  • Recruitment and promotion – the new legislation establishing the Public Appointments Service and the Commissioners for Public Service Appointments gives the Civil Service new opportunities to modernise its recruitment practices; while progress had been made with open recruitment initiatives significant further steps must be taken in the new agreement – see Section 29.3 below; although progress had been made with the introduction of competitive, merit-based selection procedures for promotion posts, further measures were also necessary in this area – see Section 29.4 below.
  • Management of staff – the agreement between the parties on a new Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) provides an essential tool for managing performance and career development for all staff; the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act 2005, which gives powers of dismissal to Ministers for grades of Principal Officer and up and, for other grades, to heads of office, will clarify disciplinary arrangements, particularly in relation to performance and underperformance, and will support the modernisation of human resource practice in the Civil Service.
  • Public Service pensions – the legislative changes in 2004 removing the compulsory retirement age and increasing the pension age for new entrants to the public service were major reforms facilitated by Sustaining Progress, reforms which will help to moderate the future cost of public service pensions; the parties also acknowledged the significant modernisation of pension arrangements for existing public servants, in particular, the changes to integration with Social Welfare pensions, which are of real benefit to pensioners on lower incomes, and the introduction of actuarially-reduced early retirement; it was also agreed that work on outstanding issues such as SPEARS and the payment of pensions to non-marital partners would continue to be a priority.

The parties agree to continue to develop and implement the measures agreed in Sustaining Progress. In particular, it is agreed that continued co-operation will be given to implementing:

  • the integration of PMDS with HR processes in accordance with the full terms of the agreement set out in General Council Report number 1452;
  • the human resource procedures which follow from the Civil Service Regulation Act 2005; and
  • modern tools to assist in measuring performance at individual, team and organisation level, and to facilitate business planning, resource allocation, the delivery of quality customer service, better regulation, human resource management initiatives, and the Management Information Framework.

29.2 Improvements in Recruitment and Promotion Systems
The parties recognise that there is a need to ensure that staff serving in the Civil Service have good opportunities to develop their careers both in their own interest and that of the organisation. Staff motivation is a key element of human resource policy.

At the same time, the Civil Service, in common with any other large employer, must balance that need with the requirement to fill positions at middle and senior management levels with the best possible candidates, using both new and established methods of recruitment and promotion.

In this context, more open recruitment and more competitive promotion procedures are needed as part of the continued modernisation of the Civil Service so that it can recruit and promote the staff required to advise the Government and implement its policies in an increasingly complex and fast-changing society and economy.

These reforms are needed in their own right, but they are particularly important in view of the ageing of the Civil Service. The average age of civil service staff has risen from 34 years in 1985 to 41 years in 2005. In 1985, 24% of civil servants were aged over 40; by 2005, this had risen to 60%. The average age of civil servants is higher than that in the labour force as a whole. There will be a considerable increase in retirements - it is estimated that retirements from the Civil Service will at least double over the next ten years or so. Human resource policy must begin to adapt now to meet the serious challenge which this will create.

29.3 Open Recruitment
Greater use of open recruitment is essential because it will allow the Civil Service to attract staff with the wide range of skills and experience needed in a modern public administration.

The following measures are agreed in relation to recruitment:
(a) For the Executive Officer grade, the proportion of posts filled through open competition will remain at 50%.
(b) It is agreed that, in order to meet the requirements of a modern public administration and to take account of the age profile of the Civil Service, an element of open public recruitment is necessary in respect of Principal Officer, Assistant Principal and Higher Executive Officer, and equivalent professional and technical grades. In doing so, it is acknowledged that recruitment at one level in this way can have implications for the next highest level. This “cascade” effect arises because the filling of, for example, a Principal Officer post from outside the Civil Service has the effect of reducing the number of vacancies at Assistant Principal and this, in turn, results in reduced movement from Higher Executive Officer to Assistant Principal. In order to achieve uniformity of effect in open recruitment as between the different levels, it is necessary to have different proportions of open recruitment at the different levels.

The Civil Service may recruit by open competition in any year:

  • 2 in 9 of all vacancies at Principal Officer [standard and higher scales] and equivalent grades, including equivalent professional and technical grades,
  • 1 in 5 of all vacancies at Assistant Principal Officer [standard and higher scales] and equivalent grades, including equivalent professional and technical grades, and
  • 1 in 6 of all vacancies at Higher Executive Officer and equivalent grades, including equivalent professional and technical grades.

Arrangements giving effect to this will be in place by end-2006. Most of the recruitments to fulfil the quotas above will be made through generic competitions for appointment to general service posts. However, some of this recruitment may be used to meet specialised requirements in general service posts and will be part of the quotas shown above. Where there are such specialised skill recruitments, there will be discussions between the parties to give effect to this arrangement.

(c) Where vacancies are filled by open competition under the procedure at (b) above, Departments and Offices will reduce their liabilities to inter-Departmental panels for the relevant grades by the same number.
(d) Where it is not possible to meet the requirement internally, the Civil Service has full flexibility to recruit staff for specified atypical work patterns, including – but not confined to – part-time work and work outside traditional patterns. Staff will be recruited on the basis of contracts which specify the nature of the working pattern and its duration. Contracts may also provide staff recruited on this basis with an opportunity to move to the standard working pattern after a set period. Discussions will be held between the parties on arrangements to give effect to this commitment. Human resource and remuneration issues, if and where they arise, will also be dealt with in these discussions.

29.4 Competitive Merit-Based Promotion
Promotion in the Civil Service is on the basis of merit and suitability. Further measures are required to ensure that competitive procedures are used to select the best candidates to carry out the work of the higher grade or post.

The following measures are agreed in relation to promotion:
(a) A minimum of 75% of all internal promotional posts in each grade will be filled through competitive merit-based processes in each Civil Service Department and Office by end-2006. Where Departments and Offices have already achieved 75% or higher and propose to increase the level further, this will be discussed locally in accordance with existing arrangements.
(b) A joint working group will be established by the parties to examine the possibilities for promotion from general service grades to professional grades and technical grades, and vice versa. The group will examine all departmental and professional grades and technical grades to [i] establish the experience, skills, and competencies required for the performance of the functions of these grades, [ii] identify specific posts in professional grades and technical grades, and general service grades where vacancies can be filled on the basis of reciprocity from common panels of staff at the appropriate levels, and [iii], where such posts are identified, consider the promotion mechanisms which should apply. The group will report by end-2006. It is agreed that the promotion arrangements will be introduced by end-2007.

29.5 Staff Deployment
The parties agree that Departments and Offices can deploy both staff and posts, not just within the same location but also within agreed defined areas or defined distances as organisational needs require.
In the interests of providing a broader range of job opportunities for staff, the parties agree to enter discussions to draft arrangements to facilitate lateral mobility between the Civil Service and other sectors of the public service.

29.6 Rationalisation of Grade Structures
The parties agree to engage in discussions to identify and explore the full range of issues involved in rationalising grade structures.

29.7 Service Channels and Shared Services
The parties agree that Departments/Offices have full flexibility to introduce and utilise all available channels to enhance service delivery, including shared services. The parties also agree to full co-operation with new technologies to enhance service delivery, to improve customer service and streamline processes including – but not exclusively – the deployment of applications required by management such as biometric technology, as used for passports by the Department of Foreign Affairs, web-based services, and Voice Over Internet Protocol, as introduced by the Revenue Commissioners.

29.8 Attendance Management
Management and unions agree to work together to promote best practice in attendance management.