Government may restore some pension cuts for retired public servants

Minister indicates priority to be given to those on low pensions

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The Government has said it will move to restore some of the pension cuts it is planning to introduce for retired public service staff when economic circumstances allow.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin indicated that those with smaller pensions would benefit first.

Under a Government decision taken in parallel to the recent Croke Park II talks process, retired public service personnel with pensions of greater than €32,000 per year face cuts ranging from two per cent to five per cent.

Representatives of retired staff were not included in the recent talks.

However Mr Howlin met today with senior figures in the Alliance of Retired Public Servants.

In a letter issued to the group Mr Howlin said: “It is my intention as a matter of priority to move towards reducing the burden of the public service pension reduction, with the initial focus on the people in receipt of low pensions, at the earliest date economic progress permits.”

He said he would envisage that developments in this regard would be the subject of ongoing bilateral discussions between his department andthe alliance .

The Department of Public Expensiture and Reform did not spell out timeframes for any move to retore pension rates nor did it define what constituted “low pensions”.

Mr Howlin told the Dáil last week that the €32,000 threshold for the new cuts was chosen as it represented half the level at which pay reductions were being introduced for serving public service staff.

However under the terms of the proposed new Haddington Road agreement, serving public service personnel earning more than €65,000 have been given specific dates for the restoration of current pay levels. The pay rates will be restored in two tranches, in 2017 and 2018.

In his letter Mr Howlin also indicated that the Government would like to see the emergence of a formalised structure, such as the Alliance of Retired Public Servants, for it to deal with in relation to public service pension matters.

Meanwhile the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) is seeking legal advice on whether legislation to cut public servants’ pay without agreement is constitutional.

The advice is being sought before a consultative conference of the union on June 8th which will consider whether it should recommend acceptance or rejection of the Haddington Road proposals to members.

IFUT maintained the legislation would treat staff who were not members of a trade union as if they had voted against the agreement and force them into taking pay cuts.

Speaking on RTÉ radio earlier today IFUT general secretary Mike Jennings said people who were not members of a trade union would automatically be deemed to be “No” voters.

“We believe that there are constitutional implications for the legislation. Because to our knowledge it is the first time that the treatment of employees, including the salaries of employees, will be dictated by their membership or non-membership of a particular trade union as opposed to the work that they do or the grade that they hold,” he said.

Separately the Unite trade union has written tothe chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey seeking clarification on a number of issues relating to the proposed Haddington Road agreement.

The union wants to know whether in a situation where workers did not accept the proposal s and were then subjected to the terms of the Government’s legislation to cut pay, procedures under the various Industrial Relations acts would remain available to workers.

Unite also sought clarification on whether in such cases, the Labour Court would have jurisdiction to hear workers’ complaints.

Unite regional co-ordinator Walter Cullen said: “Unite is concerned that any measures which undermine the State’s long-established industrial relations architecture in return for short-term and illusory savings could have negative long-term consequences.”

“We also share the concerns expressed by other unions regarding the anomalies inherent in the Government’s attempt, in the legislation, to distinguish between members of different unions and of no union.”

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