Government expected to keep financial emergency legislation

Teachers, gardaí facing financial penalties while bus workers seek 30 per cent pay hike

 Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe (left) and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, at the publication of the Summer Economic Statement for 2016, at Government Buildings, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe (left) and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, at the publication of the Summer Economic Statement for 2016, at Government Buildings, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Government is expected to insist this week that financial emergency legislation, which was used to underpin cuts to public service pay and pensions following the economic crash, should remain in place.

The Government has to provide a report to the Oireachtas by Thursday on the future of the financial emergency known as Fempi.

Government sources said that public service pay accounted for nearly one third of all State spending and given that the risk of Brexit had now materialised, expenditure control mechanisms were still necessary.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said on Sunday that the Lansdowne Road pay deal - which provides for partial restoration of wage cuts over the period to 2018 - was affordable and was “the only show in town”.

The Government is facing a series of industrial relations challenges in the coming days with thousands of gardaí and teachers potentially having significant penalties imposed on them by the end of the week for if they do not agree to co-operate with the Lansdowne Road pay accord.

Separately staff in the State-owned Dublin Bus are to go to the Labour Court on Thursday to seek increases of more than 30 per cent over a number of years.

Public service trade unions earlier this month in a letter to Mr Donohoe urged the Government to repeal immediately the Fempi legislation. They contended that it was grounded in an economic and fiscal ‘emergency and that its provisions infringed on the basic rights of State employees.

Garda representative bodies as well as the members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland have voted to reject the Lansdowne Road deal.

Protections aforded to their members under the former Haddington Road agreement expire next Thursday.

Under the Fempi legislation the Government can impose significant financial penalties on members of organisations considered to have repudiated the Lansdowne Road accord.

Members of the ASTI have voted to withdraw from controversial 33 additional hours of non-teaching duties, which are largely used for school planning and staff meetings, agreed under the Haddington Road deal.

The Government considers that if it withdraws from the 33-hours, the ASTI will be repudiating the Lansdowne Road deal and will face “consequences”.

The Department of Education told the ASTI last Friday: “In the absence of formal confirmation from you by June 30th that ASTI members will co-operate with the terms of the Lansdowne Road agreement, including the workings of the additional hours requirement provided for under the Croke Park, Haddington Road and Lansdowne Road agreements, it will be taken that ASTI members will cease co-operating with the agreement with effect from July 1st, 2016.”

The department said in that event a number of measures would fall to be applied from Thursday. These include a freeze on increments for ASTI members, non-payment of nearly €800 for supervision and substitution duties which is due to be restored from September, loss of protection against compulsory redundancy and the non-implementation of planned arrangements under which temporary teachers would be considered for permanent posts only after two years rather than four.

The department also warned that further measures may be considered in the emedium term.

The leadership of the ASTI as well as the Garda Representative Association are to meet on Monday to consider their positions.

The GRA said last week that with talks with the Department of Justice aimed at defusing a row over pay, conditions and the Lansdowne Road Agreement had broken down.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors is still considering Department of Justice proposals.

It is understood garda organisations have been offered a deal under which cuts to allowances for recent entrants can be reversed and increments guaranteed if they back the Lansdowne Road deal and accept productivity measures.

A pay review for gardai due under the Haddington Road deal has been delayed following the recent resignation of its chairman.

It is understood that the Government accepts that ballots cannot now be held before the June 30 deadline but is willing to stay its hand on imposing penalties if the organisations recommend a deal to begin a process for members to vote.