Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sick Leave escalates to fever pitch in Irish local authorities

In Ireland there are five city councils, 29 county councils, 80 town authorities (75 town and five borough councils3) and eight regional authorities. There are 883 elected councillors at city and county level and 744 on town authorities. The budgets of these councils varied in 2009 from €929 million in Dublin City to €45 million in County Leitrim.  The average municipal size in Ireland is 38,975 inhabitants and an average geographical area of 612 km.  Ireland’s local Government revenue at 7.7% of GDP is one of the lowest rates across the EU.

There are two councils in Tipperary (North Riding and South Riding), Limerick City and Limerick County, Cork City and Cork Country, Waterford City and Waterford County.  There are four local authorities in Dublin: Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and South Dublin Country Council.  Collectively they spend between €8 and €9 billion per annum.

The biggest source of local government funding, since 1977 when household rates were done away with, has been national government followed by revenue from goods and services.  The biggest expenditure of local governments is capital investments, followed by salaries of employees and intermediate consumption.11
On a national basis the Exchequer provides 44% of the funding for local government, made up of the General Purpose Grants as well as subsidies Intermediate consumption.

However, as Irish householders are likely to become increasingly sensitive to the cost of running the €9 billion per annum local authority system as the prospect of paying the Household Charge and property taxes becomes more imminent.

There is a substantial variance in the performance of councils when it comes to their staff taking sick leave – certified and uncertified.

The best and worst performers in 2010 in terms of days lost for total sick leave as a percentage of days available were:


Best Managers
of Sick Leave
Worst Managers
of Sick Leave
Clare (3.45%) Sligo (6.44%)
Wicklow (3.49%) Wexford (6.19%)
Waterford City (3.67%) Kildare (6.08%)
Louth (4.56%) Limerick City (5.88%)


Uncertified sick leave also has a league table with Cork City, Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown performing poorly and Cavan, Galway City, Mayo and Waterford County leading the best performers in the management of uncertified sick leave in 2010.

The incidence of sick-leave in local authorities is apparently double that of the private sector. Sick-leave absenteeism trends in local authorities increased by 43% between 2004 and 2010 when a total of 346,750 days were lost, according to the annual Service Indicator Report of the Local Government Management Services Board.

This equates to the working time of 1,527 whole-time employees, a figure which happens to coincide almost exactly with the number of temporary workers currently employed by local authorities.

While the bulk of sick leave is certified, uncertified sick-leave in local authorities accounted for over 47,000 days in 2010 – equivalent to the annual working time of 207 full-time workers. The system allows for paid sick leave for not more than seven days in a year, which would be the equivalent of the working time of 95 full-time employees were all employees to be sick for that time period – a factor which is implausible and improbable.

Local authorities shed 3,400 employees over recent years but has there been any investigation as to why a higher proportion of those remaining are now falling ill and what steps are being taken to curtail those who exploit the system?

Perhaps if the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges to subvert the implementation of the underlying legislation is resoundingly successful the local authorities will be deprived of funds and that might pave where there are no payments in respect of uncertified sick leave.

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