Government fails to set out public pay proposals

Officials have yet to outline specific plans after six days of talks on a new agreement

The Government has again indicated it wants public employees with faster-accruing pensions, such as gardaí , prison officers and soldiers, to make larger contributions in return for their earlier retirement benefits.

However, after six days of talks on a new public service agreement, the Government has still given no specific detail of its proposals in relation to either pay or pensions.

The Government’s proposal to make the 25,000 public service staff who have faster-accruing pensions pay more for their benefits has been strongly criticised by a number of trade unions and representative organisations.

Any higher contributions are likely to be introduced in tandem with the elimination of the existing public service pension levy which was put in place as an emergency measure in 2009.


Prison officers warned the Government not to underestimate the industrial relations consequences that could arise from its proposals to make State employees with faster-accruing pensions pay more.

It is understood representatives of the Prison Officers’ Association told the talks its members would consider such a move to represent a pay cut.

Retirement ages

The proposal was also opposed by Siptu and Impact, which represent firefighters, as well as by organisations representing gardaí and Defence Forces personnel who are understood to have argued that retirement ages for their members are set under Government policy.

The Department of Public Expenditure on Monday provided a briefing on pay developments over the last decade and set out that it would cost €691 million to fully restore pay to pre-crash levels for public service staff and a further €720 million to eliminate the existing pension levy.

The department is also understood to have repeated that there will be limited scope for manoeuvre on pay next year with a fiscal space of only €200 million available.

However, officials are understood to have signalled that the Government wanted to bring most State workers out from the ambit of the financial emergency legislation which underpinned cutbacks over the last decade or so as part of a new agreement.

Experiencing difficulties

Sources said there was also an acknowledgement that there would have to be a pay round for staff earning less than €28,000 per annum who are currently already out of the financial emergency legislation.

It is understood about 20 different public service groups and professions argued at the talks on Monday that they were experiencing difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.

It is understood the Department of Public Expenditure said it would reflect on the arguments but warned there was only a set amount of money available.

Nurses said any new deal would have to address the recruitment and retention issue through the provision of “pay-related issues”. The Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) said the issue could not be long-fingered.

However Impact, the largest public service union, said that if special pay rises were sanctioned for individual groups, there would be less money available for all others.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent