Alliance Report to TUIRMA AGM May 24th 2017

There are currently 140,000 retired public servants and until the establishment of the Alliance of Public Servants there was no one to represent their collective concerns. The Alliance is made up of delegates from 21 public sector retired members’ associations. The need for some type of representative body was suddenly realised when our pensions were reduced under the 2010 FEMPI legislation and the unions were told they could not represent retired workers.

 

The current priorities for the Alliance of Retired Public Servants are:

  • Restoration of pension.
  • Retention of  parity with serving colleagues
  • Statutory negotiating rights.

 

In relation to the current situation we need to look at two groups of retired public servants:

1.      Pre March 2012 retirees

The current pension restoration for pre March 2012 retirees is:

  • in January 2017 pensions up to €26,000 were fully restored and by  January 2018 pensions up to €34,132 will be fully restored.
  • There is currently no timetable for the full restoration of pensions above that amount.  Present Government have said there will be full restoration by 2021. This time scale is totally unacceptable.

This means that retirees with a €40,000 pension will still have a pension cut of €1200 remaining in 2018 and retirees on €50,000 pension will have €2,400 cut remaining after 2018.

  • The cost of pension restoration is €30m for each of the three years 2016 to 18 and that leaves at the end of 2018 approximately 25,000 public servants with pensions over €34,132 still subject to emergency reductions.
  • The annual pension reduction remaining at the end of 2018 is understood to be  in the order of €45m and substantially less when you take tax and USC deductions into account.

 2.      Post February 2012 Retirees

The post February 2012 retirees have a pension based on the reduced 2010 salary which generates a significantly reduced pension compared with their pre March 2012 colleagues.  These people are not included in any current restoration proposals. This is a grossly unfair, penal measure and should be reversed as a priority under the current talks.

 

The difference between the two groups can best be illustrated by an example. A pre March 2012 retiree on a pension of €30,000 will have his/her pension restored from January 2018 while a post Feb. 2012 retiree  colleague  would be on a pension of €28125 – a continuing reduction of €1875 per annum.

 

Retention of  parity with serving colleagues

The current Minister for Public Expenditure and reform is giving very conflicting messages in relation to how pensions will be increased into the future. This is by far the most important issue as it will determine the value of public sector pensions into the future.

 

On page 31 of the last TUI News it was stated that “ the Minister for Public  Expenditure and Reform confirmed late in 2016 that the link between pension and serving grade continues”.

 

However, in response to a Dail Question on 02/03/2017 Minister O’ Donohoe stated:

“Pay parity which was a non-statutory linkage lapsed in 2010 and it will be for the Government in due course to consider the issue of how to adjust the post award value of public service pensions through appropriate pay or other linkages”.

 

Restoration of the link between pension and pay is vital to protect the value of our pension into the future. It will have a greater impact in the longer term than restoration. It will decide the future value of our pension.    The 2012 Public Service Pensions Act allows the Public Expenditure minister to link future pension increases with the consumer price index. However, the minister has not yet signed it into law. Any move from parity to an inflation linked index would greatly reduce the long term value of our pension. An inflation index would be of benefit at the moment as there has been no recent pay increases, ultimately it would cost public sector retirees billions in the long term. Consumer Price Index is not an acceptable alternative to parity.

 

Negotiating Rights

Currently the Alliance of Retired Public Servants do not have negotiating rights. As a grace and favour they meet regularly with the Minister and his officials to voice the concerns of retired public servants and represent their demands. The unwinding of FEMPI and the reversal of pension reductions is of major importance to retired public servants and we can longer tolerate the failure of government to provide some form of third party mechanism to resolve difficulties in this regard.

 

The Alliance had a meeting with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform officials on March 9th 2017

They felt that this was more positive than the meeting in Dec. 2016. The meeting was constructive and focussed.  For the first time they felt that there was a realisation that something would have to done to address the post February 2012 public sector retirees and the retirees on very low pensions.

 

Letter to Minister

Alliance sent a letter to the Minister asking him to bring forward date for pension restoration in line with the bringing forward of the €1000 pay increase to public sector workers.  In his reply the minister’s response was  “ that reductions to public service pension have been significantly reversed and will be for the government in due course to consider the issue of how to adjust the post-award value of public service pensions”

 

Meeting with Fianna Fail.  

There were two meetings scheduled with Michael Martin to take place recently. However these meetings were called off by Fianna Fail at the last minute. Angry correspondence was exchanged with Fianna Fail. The Alliance has been promised that a meeting will take place soon. Fianna Fail’s current attitude is confusing and  very difficult to pin them down on their policy.

 

In a response to me from my local FF TD Jackie Cahill  stated  “ Fianna Fail has already stated that it supports the repeal of FEMPI legislation and also that engagement with representatives of retired public servants should take place.” . It is worrying that the 2018 date, which was previously included as the date for its removal was omitted from this statement.

 

Profile of Alliance

Member affiliates have contributed funds towards the “Raise the Profile of ARPS” campaign and more is pledged.

Montague Communication has been engaged to help with this work.

At the recent meeting of the Alliance Pat Motague gave an update on what had been done to date

There were two recent media events to launch press releases:

  • One Thursday/Friday May 5 & 6 2017
  • One Tuesday May 9th 2017

Both got good coverage.

A Representative from the Alliance spoke on the Claire Byrne show on May 8th 2017.

A letter is to be sent to all Oireachtas members outlining our demands.

Members of the Alliance have volunteered to be available to speak on local radio.

An Alliance website and twitter account have been launched. The website is www.arps.ie.

The Alliance is much better prepared in relation to the upcoming pay talks and have succeeded in having the demands of retired public servants being taken seriously by the official side.

 

Pay Talks

  • The recent Pay Commission report concerned itself with public service pay. However, it did make comments on the value of public sector pensions.
  • Pay Commission Report  also make reference to “National financial situation does require the gradual removal of FEMPI”
  • The Alliance of Retired Public Servants did make a submission to the Pay Commission. However, they were told that the remit of the Commission did not extend to considering the position of retired public servants.
  • Talks have commenced between Public Services Committee of ICTU and DPER. The plan is that these talks will be short and focussed and will be completed by June Bank Holiday weekend. Parallel talks will take place with the Alliance of Public Servants on pensions. Alliance Officers have been invited to talks tomorrow (25-05-2017).
  • The talks will encompass the ending of FEMPI.
  • Tom Geraghty, Secretary Public Services Committee ICTU has stated that unions were “absolutely unanimous” there would be no deal that would reduce their retirement benefits.

 

Priorities for ARPS in upcoming talks.

  • Immediate removal of FEMPI
  • Full pension restoration in an accelerated manner
  • Parity with pay of serving colleagues to be restored
  • Negotiating rights – rather that the grace an favour as at present
  • Some type of Conciliation/Arbitration Process to handle public sector pension issues
  • Special deal for members who retired post Feb. 2012
  • Increases for public sector pensioners on very low pensions.

 

It was accepted that what happens in main talks will have a major influence on pension talks.

Any outcome will come back to the Alliance Council and,  because the Alliance does not have a negotiation rights  it does not have the ability to agree any outcome on behalf of members.

As a result of  the work of the Alliance, and the lobbying campaign by individual members issues relating to public sector pensions are very much on the agenda this time which is an important improvement to last time.  It is helpful that Oonagh Buckley – Director Workplace Relations Commission – has stated that concerns regarding public sector pensions will have to be addressed in the talks.

 

In summary

The next two weeks will be very important in determining the future value of our pensions. It is vital that we, along with other retired public servants, get involved in lobbying our local representatives. This is a task that cannot and must not be left to branch officers or management committee representatives. It is up to all of us  to create the impression, with politician, how big we are and that we are prepared to use our main weapon – our vote – to get what we want. We must all take an active role in this campaign – leaving it to others is not an option.

It is important to note that pension entitlements were part of our contract of employment. We delivered on our part and now when it is our turn to benefit we expect our employer – the Government – to deliver on their commitments to us.

Retired Public Servants paid towards their pensions and had pay increases reduced because of our pension entitlements. Second Benchmarking report reduced the pay award by 12% because of our pension entitlements.

Despite media attempts to portray all public sector pensioners as having gold plated pensions the reality is much different.  The average public sector pension is €20,000pa and public sector pensioners pay tax and USC on that payment making their disposable income significantly less.

Public Service pensions are deferred pay and arise directly from employment by the state. We expect and demand that our Government honour their contractual agreements with us.

Alliance will oppose any attempt by the Government to introduce retrospective changes that would worsen our entitlements.