Hundreds of Limerick public servants head for the exit door

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

OVER 30 staff at Limerick County Council have expressed an interest in retiring by the end of the month; the Limerick Garda Division looks set to lose 18 members; and around 30 nurses plan to call it a day at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.

OVER 30 staff at Limerick County Council have expressed an interest in retiring by the end of the month; the Limerick Garda Division looks set to lose 18 members; and around 30 nurses plan to call it a day at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.

Public servants who retire in the next three weeks will leave with pensions based on their salaries prior to the austerity-driven pay cuts of recent years.

But while hundreds across Limerick have handed in their notice, they can still change their minds ahead of the February 29 deadline.

Pat Fitzgerald, senior executive officer in human resources, Limerick County Council, confirmed there were “currently 31 notices of intention to retire” but these staff were “at liberty to withdraw their notice up to the end of February”.

The finance, roads, housing, water services, library and horticulture departments would all be affected and the numbers were “evenly split between office-based and outdoor workers”, Mr Fitzgerald said.

Combined with the 26 staff who retired from Limerick County Council in 2011, the local authority would have lost almost one in 10 of its whole-time equivalent staff since the beginning of last year. Limerick County Council currently has 749 people on the payroll - or 629 whole-time equivalents.

“The Council is monitoring posts as they become vacant and putting arrangements in place to ensure that critical posts are filled as a priority. This may involve transfer of existing staff, redeployments and seeking the Department of the Environment‘s approval to recruit,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

Garda sources this week told the Limerick Leader that 18 members of the force, including three sergeants, are set to retire but the Garda Press Office could not confirm the figures for the Limerick division.

With gardai still able to change their minds, “the situation is very fluid and we can’t give out figures which might turn out to be wrong”, a spokesman said.

Joe Lyons, Limerick INTO, said that 38 primary school teachers had retired in the city alone in 2011 and he expected “at least as many” to retire in the city in the coming weeks. The Department of Education was unable to provide figures this Wednesday on how many primary and secondary teachers in County Limerick had handed in their notice.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, meanwhile, expects 30 nurses to go at Limerick Regional Hospital, up to 20 midwives at the Regional Maternity and at least three at Croom Orthopaedic.

The HSE does not have figures on how many staff will leave in Limerick or the Mid-West but 560 plan to retire from the HSE West, which stretches from Limerick to Donegal. This is higher than in any other HSE region and represents over a quarter of the national total. And over 85 per cent of those intending to leave the health services in the HSE West are front-line workers, including 341 nurses.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin this week attacked Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s announcement that “transition teams” headed by department assistant secretaries would help minimise the effect of the retirements on front-line services - saying such teams did not yet exist.

“We gave the example of the maternity hospital in Limerick. Redeployment has been agreed locally and there is a need for additional staff after redeployment. One month after the business plan has been sent up the line, however, it has not been approved and it has not got the green light,” said Deputy Martin.

He added that Minister James Reilly had only this week “finally admitted that public patients will have their surgery cancelled as a result of what is happening”.

Also in the Dail, Deputy Kieran O’Donnell said it was “critical” that the Government gives a “commitment to ensure there will be a sufficient complement of midwives” at the maternity hospital in early March.