Every working couple pays for one civil servant and one unemployed, says Eamonn Blaney
We have now reached the stage where for every one person on the Live Register there is another person, who is a public servant. So for the purpose of simplicity, we can say that there are 450,000 people unemployed and 450,000 public and civil servants.
This accounts for 900,000 people out of the total workforce of 2.1 million. Or put another way, nearly a quarter of the entire workforce is in the public service and a quarter unemployed.
With those kinds of numbers you would expect that we would have the most efficient public service on the planet.
Think about it, if you and your partner are both lucky enough to be working, your salaries have to pay for your own household, plus one person on social welfare and one civil servant. And if you think this is bad now, it is only going to get worse in the next two to three years.
What’s more, as a result of benchmarking, the average public service wage was €962.14 per week versus €630.66 per week for the private sector, a massive 34 per cent higher. (Qtr 4 2009, CSO Earnings Report). The Government has absolutely no idea of present wage levels because the figures are nine months out of date.
This is because companies and the public service have not submitted the figures to the Central Statistics Office. Legally they have two weeks to provide them, but are allowed three months by the CSO. How can the Government manage on such out-of-date information? Obviously, they can’t.
However, another rant about the inefficiencies of the public service and how easy public servants have it compared with the private sector will not get us any closer to bridging the gap between the perception and the reality, but it is time that a few home truths regarding how the public services are delivered and how the civil service is run, were told.
It is very important that private sector workers acknowledge the problems with the public service are not with frontline staff, who work under enormous pressure to deliver services with fewer and fewer resources. No, the real problem with the civil and public service is the Untouchables, the people you never get to meet or see, the people who remain nameless. That great British comedy Yes Minister springs to mind.
Yet it is these ‘executives’ who dictate policy and strategic direction of not just the public and civil services, but indirectly decide how our entire country is governed and how our taxes are spent. These relatively small numbers of very senior public servants are generally the ones who have been there a long time, are extremely well remunerated by international standards and are effectively unaccountable to anyone, including the relevant ministers. The management in the banks are the same.
Anybody who has held a managerial position in the private sector is aware of something known as employment attrition rates. Put simply, this is the amount of staff in a given year which you will lose for different reasons. These members of staff may have decided to leave the company in order to take up a different position, been fired for a serious breach of company rules or, in the majority of cases, they are let go due to unsuitability for the job which they were employed to do.
The rate of staff turnover varies from one industry to the other. In the case of the fast-food industry and restaurants in general the turnover rate is high, and is usually in the region of 10 per cent to 25 per cent per annum. In most industries in which there is a high clerical or administrative function the rate of employee attrition is approximately five per cent to 10 per cent per annum.
In the public service, as far as I can ascertain, the number is in the region of 0.01 per cent per annum. That’s right, in any given year only one person in a hundred was dismissed due to unsuitability for the position they held. Now, either the public service has the most capable and efficient recruitment procedures in the world or there are a lot of people who are employed there but are patently unsuitable for the job. But it gets worse.
Because public servants historically were promoted primarily due to longevity of service and not merit or suitability for the job, we have literally thousands of very senior public servants who should have been dismissed years ago, filling key positions. And people wonder why it takes so long to implement change.
Over the last year or two, we have seen an escalation of the public vs private sector debate. The majority of public servants, quite rightly, feel that they are being made scapegoats for the implementation of policy with which they have very little or nothing at all to do with. These are the frontline workers who toil day in, day out to provide services with little thanks from the recipients or from the rest of us.
Likewise, in the private sector, and particularly in large organisations such as the banks, the level of staff morale has never been lower. Workers do not know if they have any job security at all. They know that the budgets that are coming over the next two to three years are going to be severe and that may be sufficient to tip them into a state of economic desperation. But the senior management layer will be just fine.
A situation where the workers of this country are effectively at each other’s throats is not accidental. It absolutely serves those who are responsible for the present state of economic chaos. Instead of fighting with one another, all front-line workers in this country, both private and public, should get together to demand the resignation of at least the top two layers of management in the private (financial services) and public sectors.
These are the people who have been on exorbitant salaries/pensions and have been very quick to claim all the perks and expenses which they awarded themselves. Every time we hear about the necessity for job cuts it is always the people in the frontline at the lower levels of the organisation (the ones who actually do the work) that are in the firing line. This is morally indefensible.
Many of the heads of departments in the public service, and the majority of the executive layer in all of the Irish banks, should be dismissed without hesitation. They have demonstrated without equivocation that they are utterly incompetent at their job. After all, who was it that was responsible for the decisions that were taken which have got us into this mess? It can only be those who decide on both the strategy and timelines for the implementation of same. These are the executive levels of the organisations which control power within our State.
These people have had it far too easy for far too long, and it is time that we the workers demanded their resignation.
Over the next two to three years we are going to see economic hardship in this country the likes of which we have not seen for generations. If this is the case, it is probably as good a time as any to make fundamental changes to how we are governed and how commercial and public services are delivered and by whom.
There are a colossal number of incredibly competent people in the low and middle management levels within all organisations in the State, people who know exactly what is required to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. But they are rarely listened to.
They have to keep their heads down for fear of being victimised by the layers of management above, who dislike anybody pointing out their inabilities, inefficiencies and ineptitude.
We will be facing into a General Election no later than February of next year, as a result of the inability of Fianna Fail to get their Budget through the Dail in December. Whether it is in the short or medium term, I would suggest that every one of us carefully consider the people that we intend to vote for and, most importantly of all, that we actively take part in the future of our country and exercise our right to be heard, and vote.