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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Sickness levels 'will be tackled'
Person sneezing
Mr Robinson said sickness levels need to be reduced
The problem of absenteeism in Northern Ireland's civil service will be tackled one way or another, Finance Minister Peter Robinson has said.

Mr Robinson said the executive had to carefully monitor the situation using existing procedures.

But public service union Nipsa insisted that comparisons with sick leave rates in the private sector were misleading.

They said civil service figures also include long-term illnesses, but sick leave levels were otherwise similar.

Union spokesman John Corey said the "big stick approach to addressing sick leave... just demoralises staff".

"Unfair treatment over pay, threats to their jobs from privatisation and expenditure cuts all contribute to stress and sick leave levels - these matters need to be addressed," he said.

However, Mr Robinson said the situation would be reviewed every three months.

He said 40% of civil servants never took a day off, but were being placed under great strain by a further 10 or 11% who, he said, were "frankly swinging the lead".

"Urgent action has to be taken," the finance minister said.

"We are talking about the equivalent of the whole of the Department of Education, the whole of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the whole of the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister being absent for the complete year."

Last month Mr Robinson claimed urgent action was needed to tackle the problem of absenteeism in the civil service.

He said the problem cost the tax payer more than 24m last year - a figure that's expected to rise.

The executive will also hold an initial discussion on the Workplace 2010 initiative, a five-year programme to modernise and rationalise civil service accommodation.

Civil service 'fortnight on sick'
04 Jun 07 |  Northern Ireland

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