Lump sums of over €150,000 for five pension teachers

Small firms boss says payments are example of ‘golden circle’ but unions defend awards

The Department of Education and Science in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Department of Education and Science in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 01:00

Five secondary school teachers last year received lump sums of more than €150,000 when retiring from the profession, new figures show.

Data provided by the Department of Education in response to a Freedom of Information request shows that one teacher received a lump sum of €165,974 under the generous pension scheme.

The tax-free lump sum was the top amount paid to a retiring teacher in the primary and post-primary sector last year.

The highest amount received by a primary school teacher was €143,672.

But the figures show the exodus of primary and secondary school teachers from the public service has slowed overall, with a 54 per cent drop in the lump sum payments from €172.4 million in 2012 to €79.3 million last year.

Last year, retiring primary school teachers received lump sum payments totalling €43.97 million compared with €97.6 million in 2012. Their secondary school counterparts received €35.3 million compared with €74.7 million the previous year.

Entitlement

Retiring school teachers and principals are entitled to roughly 1½ times their salary in a tax-free lump sum, separate to their pension.

Benefits are payable from the age of 55 provided the teacher has 35 years of pensionable service. For teachers who joined the profession after 2004, however, benefits are not payable until they reach 65.

The figures show 121 retiring secondary teachers received lump sums of between €100,000 and €150,000 last year, with 216 receiving between €50,000 and €100,000.

In the primary sector, 175 teachers received lump sums of between €100,000 and €150,000, with 250 receiving €50,000-€100,000.

The figures also show the growing burden of pension payments to the exchequer with €414.9 million paid to 13,710 retired primary teachers last year. This compared with €398.8 million in pensions paid to 13,400 such teachers in 2012.

Pension numbers up

In the post-primary sector, pension payments – again excluding lump sums – of €285.86 million were made to 9,719 teachers in 2012, increasing to €298.8 million, to 10,005 retirees, last year.

Mark Fielding, chief executive of the small and medium business organisation Isme, described the lump-sum payments as “another example of Ireland’s real golden circle”.

“Private-sector employees can only stand and wonder at the riches in the parallel universe that is the public sector,” he said.

Sean McMahon, president of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), said: “Teachers are ordinary members of society who have suffered quite a lot with the demise of the Celtic Tiger.”

Years of service

Mr McMahon said teachers paid into their pensions throughout their years of service “and it behoves the State to recompense teachers accordingly”.

INTO national executive member Pat Crowe said the terms of public pensions had gradually got worse over the last number of years “while private sector pensions have been absolutely gutted”.

He said instead of the private sector comparing their pensions with the public sector, they should be compared with the private sector in other European countries.