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Croke Park Agreement: A Pivotal Juncture

by Tom O'Connor on March 1st, 2012
Minister Howlin speaks to the Croke Park agreement in his Budget speech

Minister Howlin speaks to the Croke Park Agreement in his Budget speech

For the Croke Park Agreement, 2012 is the year when the rubber hits the road in earnest, reaching a very pivotal juncture, in terms of implemention.

The first 18-months of its existence have allowed participants to test the parameters, clarify terms and overall deepen their engagement with the various changes being proposed/initiated.

Croke Park agreement – 2011 progress
Progress, though substantial, has been mostly targeted at the low hanging fruit, as echoed in those words from the introduction to the Implementation Body’s First Progress Report:

“a good start has been made”.

The headline achievements in 2011 have included:

– Pay bill savings of €289m, mostly resulting from a reduction of 5,349 in staff and a 5.2% drop in overtime costs.

– Non-pay savings of €308m, mostly involving property rationalisations, better procurement and changes to service delivery.

Croke Park agreement – urgency is key challenge
The big challenge identified by the Implementation Body relates to a need for greater urgency in bringing forward savings in such areas as:

– Rostering in the Healthcare sector
– Local Government restructuring
– In Education, using the extra teaching hours and the rationalisation of VEC’s
– In Justice, implementation of revised Garda rosters

To this end, Minister Howlin, in his Public Service Reform Plan of Nov. 17, 2011 and again in his budget speech of Dec 5, 2011, outlined the government’s intent to inject the needed momentum.

He reiterated the Implementation Body’s verdict:

“The Croke Park Agreement simply has to deliver. We have made a good start but we have a way to travel yet.”

Croke Park agreement – 2012 goals
His reform plan sets out 62 major headings and 202 sub-headings to be worked on, to achieve efficiencies across 13 major themes – with deadlines for completion firmly set.

In 2012, the public service pay bill must fall by another €400 million; staff numbers by 6000; overtime costs by 10% and allowances and premium payments by 5%.

Further, 48 existing agencies will be culled by merging with others or by incorporation back into the Departments.

And a wide array of other issues have also to be progressed, yielding tangible savings from changes to premium payments, allowances, expenses, working hours, rosters, privilege days, agency rationalisations, shared services and other administrative simplifications – together with targeted programmes of redeployment and early retirement.   

Croke Park agreement – middle management critical
The capacity to implement this level of change, within a 12-month timeframe, isn’t to be underestimated.

It needs careful programming; but, as well, the changes need to be culturally embraced on the ground – as this is what ultimately proves most decisive, in determining success.

For, at the heart of the Croke Park Agreement is the degree to which the leadership-at-all-levels takes ownership for delivering the desired changes, by actively engaging with colleagues and stakeholders, galvanising support & drawing out the best in all concerned.

This requires a complex set of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to navigate and resolve the inevitable ambiguities, arising at local level.

Thus, the biggest challenge in 2012 will ultimately fall to the middle management ranks to deliver the necessary changes on the ground – engaging with staff to find the workable solutions that meet the spirit of the agreement at the frontline interface with the public.

PS. For related Torc training programmes, please click on the following links:
1. Essentials of the Croke Park Agreement 
2. Managing Merger Integrations
3. Change Management For Managers
4. Managing the Human Aspects of Change
5. Managing the Process Aspects of Change

PPS. For related Torc articles, please click on the following links:
1. The Croke Park Agreement: Local Implementation
2. Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast
3. HSE Transformation: How Is The Medicine Working?
4. Fiscal Emergencies: Ghosts of X-Mas Past

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