The fuller picture emerges on pay and pensions for gardaí

Horgan report will provide an invaluable input to the work of the Public Service Pay Commission

 

The threat of strike action by members of An Garda Síochána was an abuse of its monopoly power as the national police force. The substantial pay settlement terms required to resolve that dispute has destabilised the Lansdowne Road agreement and – given the precedent set – left the Government with a series of public service pay claims for parity.

Had the findings of a report by former Labour Court chairman John Horgan been published sooner – before the Labour Court last month awarded members a €4,000 (6 per cent) pay rise – settlement terms might well have been different. The public would have seen that the pay, allowances and terms of pension provision for garda members were already extremely generous. Both the garda pay claim and Labour Court award would have been far harder to justify.

Mr Horgan’s task was to examine pay and conditions of members of the force, and related matters. The total compensation of the average member of the force – after basic pay, overtime, allowances, and pension rights – was approximately €100,000.

This is well above the average (€63,450) gross figure in 2015, which includes overtime and allowances, but not the benefit of pension provision. Mr Horgan has noted that neither the “Departments of Justice and Equality nor the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform were able to provide him with estimates of the value of the Superannuation schemes to members of An Garda Síochána”.

The value of these generous pension rights greatly enhances Garda pay, something the Government in contesting the pay claim failed to highlight. Mr Horgan has now done so. He has clearly identified the unique extra benefit that members of the force enjoy – relative both to other public service workers, and in particular to those in the private sector.

Garda members can qualify for a full pension after 30 years service. They may retire at 55, and – given increased life expectancy – may well spend more years in retirement than at work, enjoying pension rights few others can obtain, and fewer still, notably in the private sector, can any longer afford.

At a time when private sector defined benefit (final salary) pension schemes are either being closed to new members, or wound up – as companies can no longer afford them — an unreformed public service pension structure, largely funded from general taxation, is neither equitable nor financially sustainable. Mr Horgan favours legal sanctions – making members of the force ineligible for pension accrual for five years where they engage in strikes.

His report will provide an invaluable input to the work of the Public Service Pay Commission, due to present an initial report by mid 2017. But whether that report, will arrive – as with the Horgan review — too late to influence public service pay claims, is now a serious concern.

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