OVERTIME IN THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT AND POWER
An Coiste um Chuntais Phoiblí
At the proceedings of the Committee on 22nd of July 1971 in connection with the Appropriation Account of the Vote for Transport and Power 1969-70, I undertook to supply a note regarding the steps which are taken by the Department of Finance to check the ratio of overtime and to investigate if overtime is the most economical way of coping with the problem.
Attached is a note which I have received from the Personnel Division of the Department on the subject.
Mise, le meas,
J. F. MACINERNEY,
An Roinn Airgeadais,
24th Nollaig, 1971.
Overtime in the Department of Transport and Power
The incidence of overtime is reviewed each year by the Department of Finance when the Estimates are being approved. Ordinarily, authority for the working of payable overtime is given on the basis that (1) it is cheaper or more effective to have the work done in this way than by employing extra staff (whom, for short periods of overtime in any event, it would not be appropriate to take on), and (2) no officer should do more than 12 hours overtime a week.
The Department of Finance having set out these principles for observance by Departments, the onus is on Accounting Officers to see that they are in fact observed save in most exceptional circumstances.
The situation in the Radio and Meteorological Services of the Department of Transport and Power is regarded as exceptional for the following reasons:
(1) The services have to be manned on a 24-hour basis and not merely during the day-time;
(2) There has been a very rapid expansion of the Technical Branch of the Radio Service in recent years because of the increase in air traffic and technological developments in aviation;
(3) As the number of qualified candidates anxious to secure appointment were not adequate for the additional posts made available by this expansion, there was a substantial number of vacancies in the various grades during the year. The number stood at 62 on 1st April, 1969, but was reduced to 22 on 1st April, 1970. It also takes several months for the new staff to become effective;
(4) The incidence of sick leave was high.
The largest individual overtime payments were made to Technical Officers—15 of them received payments in excess of £800 each. However, 17 posts out of an authorised establishment of 70 in that grade were vacant until June 1969, and the new staff did not become fully effective until the end of that year.
The Department of Transport and Power have indicated that many officers are unwilling to work overtime mainly for reasons of health, or the irregularity of the hours. In the circumstances they had no option but to employ volunteers on overtime for periods considerably in excess of the standard 12 hours a week. They are fully alive to the fact that the working of excessive overtime by an individual is not desirable and say that everything possible is done to limit the amount so worked by any particular officer. The main way in which to control overtime working in the future is to keep the overtime grades up to full strength and special efforts are being made with a view to achieving this aim.
The question of employing additional staff with a view to eliminating overtime has been considered in the past but it was found that this course would not be justified on economic and other grounds. For instance, overtime worked by Technical staff in 1969-70 cost £29,600, but it is estimated that the additional staff which would have been needed to do the same amount of work would have cost £36,600 when allowance is made for annual leave, superannuation and other overhead costs. Moreover, the incidence of annual and sick leave and other absences is not distributed evenly throughout the year, and the additional staff would not, therefore, be gainfully employed at all times. Even if reinforcement on this scale were a practical proposition it would not eliminate the need, inherent in a roster system, to replace absentees at very short notice by officers with similar expertise on an overtime basis.