The union representing lower paid civil servants has asked Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin if top civil service managers have formally agreed to forego their two privilege days a year.

Civil Public and Services Union general secretary Blair Horan said that if they have not, the only people to lose leave entitlements would be his members.

Mr Horan said his members had conceded three days a year in 'bank time', which is the half hour off per week to cash cheques.

The Civil Service Arbitration Board yesterday said that the Government could not eliminate privilege days for staff.

As a result of the decision, all civil servants will see the two privilege days dating back to British rule converted into two days of annual leave.

Mr Horan pointed out that up to November, two controversial issues had been linked in negotiations on Croke Park Agreement reforms.

The first was bank time for staff to cash their cheques, even if they were paid electronically. The second was the abolition of two privilege days off each year.

His union had been prepared to negotiate on giving up bank time as long as that matter was dealt with in conjunction with the cutting of privilege days for more senior staff.

However, the union became concerned when November the two issues were separated last November.

The CPSU feared this would disadvantage lower paid grades that would lose bank time, while higher paid grades would retain privilege days.

Following negotiations, it was agreed in December that staff would give up bank time - calculated as being worth three days a year - in exchange for reforms of the privilege days regime.

Junior staff would see their two privilege days converted to annual leave, mid-ranking staff would convert one privilege day and senior staff would lose both days.

However, as result of yesterday's arbitration board decision, all staff will see their privilege days convert to annual leave.

This means that only Mr Horan's lower paid members - who conceded the loss of bank time - have suffered an effective fall in leave entitlements.

Mr Horan said that it looked like the 'age old problem' that concessions were only for ordinary folk while their masters retain their privileges.

The Department of Finance said the question of senior managers foregoing privilege days did not arise as the proposition was for privilege days to be withdrawn for all grades.