My Department is required to move 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. In addition, four of the Agencies under the aegis of my Department are due to decentralise as follows: FÁS is to move 383 posts to Birr, Co. Offaly; Enterprise Ireland is to move 292 posts to Shannon; The Health and Safety Authority is to move 110 posts to Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, and The National Standards Authority of Ireland is to move 132 posts to Arklow, Co. Wicklow. Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment With regard to my Department, the number of posts in Business Units decentralising to Carlow, as at 16th May, is 276. Having regard to the Department of Finance agreed staff protocols, my Department has approached all General Service staff who expressed a first preference before 7th September 2004 i.e "Priority Applications" for relocation to Carlow through the Central Application Facility and there are currently 169 priority first preference applications for Carlow, with good interest across all grades.
Officials in my Department have analysed the so-called "Two to Ten" priority applicants — those who before the 7th September 2004 deadline identified Carlow as their 2nd or subsequent choice. In addition, given that there still remains a deficit in some grades my Department has assessed the post September 2004 CAF applicants, in line with Department of Finance policy. As a result of these "trawls" we expect to be in a position to fill a further 39 posts.
My Department currently has 93 Carlow-bound applicants assigned to decentralising posts and we expect to have all decentralising posts filled in sufficient time to ensure that staff are adequately trained in advance of the move to Carlow.
With regard to the property side of the Department's move, the Office of Public Works has completed the purchase of a site in Carlow town centre. The Office of Public Works, in conjunction with its legal advisers and the National Treasury Management Agency, is finalising the documentation which is required in order to seek expressions of interest from developers in relation to the design, build, finance and maintenance of new office accommodation and car parking for the Department in Carlow. On completion of this process, a short-list of developers will be drawn up from whom tenders will be invited. The Office of Public Works has assured the Department that progress on this project, which is one of a number to be procured using the Public Private Partnership model, is a priority. The OPW expect construction to begin early in 2007 and the construction phase may take up to 24 months.
In order to accommodate staff who wish to move earlier than the projected building completion date, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units, are actively exploring the option of an earlier move to Carlow, subject to securing, high quality temporary accommodation. This latter option could allow for the movement of some decentralising staff to Carlow during the first half of next year. Agency Decentralisation My Department continues to provide advice and support to each of the four Agencies in progressing their decentralisation programmes and there is a dedicated Agency Decentralisation Committee to drive the process forward. In addition, I am satisfied that each Agency is fully engaged in the process and taking all of the relevant steps to advance their decentralisation plans.
In outlining the current Agency position on decentralisation, it must be remembered that CAF data is based on "priority first preference" applications.
The FÁS Head Office relocation, involving 383 staff, to Birr, Co. Offaly, has a target date of Easter 2009 for the move. The negotiations for the purchase of a site in Birr are at an advanced stage.
To date 79 FÁS staff have signalled their agreement to transfer to Birr. The inclusion of a "relocation clause" in recruitment and promotion contracts is being opposed by SIPTU, which represents a majority of the staff in Head Office. Following a Labour Court recommendation, which was of the opinion that FÁS was in breach of the consultations procedures provided for in the company and union industrial relations procedures agreement, SIPTU served notice of their members' intention to take industrial action.
In advance of the industrial action, discussions between both parties were held under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission to see whether progress could be made. It was unfortunately not possible to find a resolution and the industrial action is taking place on a phased basis.
Differences remain between the parties, which must be addressed through further dialogue. It would not be helpful at this point to get into detail on the elements of the negotiations. Naturally, I strongly support using all the established consultation and dialogue mechanisms and I hope that further discussions will lead to a resolution.
With regard to Enterprise Ireland, the most recent CAF figures show that a total of 52 people have signaled their interest in moving to Shannon, at this stage.
The most immediate implementation step for Enterprise Ireland is to provide for a new HQ building, designed to meet the business needs of the organisation. Enterprise Ireland, working closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW), has identified but not yet acquired a preferred site in Shannon. Health and Safety Authority The position with regard to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), with 110 posts moving to Thomastown, is that to date a total of 62 people have expressed an interest in transferring to Thomastown.
The Authority has been advised by OPW that as the site procurement is in the final stages, the current timeline for availability for occupancy is mid 2008.
The Authority has now secured an office in Kilkenny city which will act as an interim base for 25 staff who are in the process of recruitment for the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) strategy as well as some serving staff who wish to move in advance of the Thomastown premises being available. The Authority has informed me that they hope to have this office fit for occupancy by June of this year. All staff that move in the interim to Kilkenny city will transfer to Thomastown when the premises there are completed.
Finally, in relation to the National Standards Authority of Ireland, a total of 132 staff are to be relocated to Arklow. The latest available CAF figures show the total number of first preference priority applications received from within the agency is 11. When those from across the civil and public service are added the total is 130. However, a significant grade mismatch is evident within these numbers. NSAI are working closely with OPW in identifying and securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area and the NSAI anticipate a target date of April 2009 as the completion date of its decentralisation plan.