AN agreement has been reached between civil service management and unions which aims to cut the size of the government workforce – and minimise the need for compulsory redundancies.
The Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme (MARS) allows an individual civil servant to choose to leave the civil service in return for a severance payment provided they have the agreement of their department and the Civil Service Commission – and where it can be demonstrated there will be a long term financial saving to government.
MARS offers severance payments of one month’s salary per year of service to those who leave the civil service, creating job vacancies that can be filled by redeployment – and ultimately somewhere along the line, a vacancy that does not need to be filled, so creating the saving to government.
Jon Callister, secretary of the Civil Service Commission, explained that the normal system of early redundancy was based on a specific post being made redundant. He said: ‘This scheme doesn’t work that way. In most cases where individuals apply for a MARS payments, the posts they occupied will still need to be filled.’
He said it was uncertain how many would apply for MARS or what reduction in staff numbers it will generate as not all those who applied under the scheme would be accepted.
He said he was aware of a handful of applications that were currently being progressed through the departments.
The scheme will initially run until the end of September but the Commission may review whether to extend it beyond that, said Mr Callister.
The letter telling civil servants about the deal was signed by both Mr Callister and Angela Moffatt, union leader at the Government Officers’ Association.
Chairman of the Civil Service Commission Alfred Cannan MHK said: ‘Both the Commission and the Government Officers’ Association recognise the significant financial challenges which government continues to face and by introducing the MARS scheme, the need for compulsory redundancies, and associated costs, can be minimised.
‘I am very grateful to the Government Officers’ Association for working very closely with the Commission in relation to the development and implementation of this scheme.’
Under the scheme, those who are members of the government’s unified pension scheme can get severance payments based on one month’s basic pay per year of services up to a maximum of 12 months.
For those civil servants who are close to their pension age, tapering provisions apply. Separate provisions apply for those who are over pension age.
Applications for MARS will close at 5pm on Friday, September 28.
A joint statement issued by the Civil Service Commission and the Government Officers’ Association said the severance terms provided a ‘fair level of compensation’ for leavers while at the same time giving value for money for the public purse.
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