RMA News October 2013 by Christy Conville
As I write this article I am preparing to depart for our autumn Break in Kelly’s Resort Hotel in Rosslare. I will be joined by a lot of our members who appreciate this aspect of our organisation as very beneficial to them. In the midst of all the doom and gloom it is essential to keep in touch in a social way with our friends and colleagues, it gives us a sense of balance which we need to keep sane. On Tuesday the first day of our Break the Budget will be announced and we will need all the support we can muster to deal with it.
A lot of things have been happening since we resumed after the summer for one several Branch meetings have been held, a Midlands Branch meeting, a Cork Branch meeting, a Meath Branch meeting and a Carlow Branch has been formed. Offaly intends to form a Branch and a Branch meeting is organised for end of October in Mayo. During the summer the Kildare Branch went to Derry for a five day break – this is the most active Branch socially wise. It’s hard to keep up with all the happenings but we have a solution, during the summer we organised one of our members to set up our own website rmatui.ie . This has now been launched and you can access it for all the up to date information on the RMA generally and local Branches and other relevant information.
We have also been very active as part of the Alliance of Retired Public Servants, we have almost completed the Constitution for the Alliance and we submitted a Budget Proposal to the Minister as you can read below.
Alliance Budget Proposals on Pension Reduction (Draft 25 September,2013)
While the Alliance is concerned with the affects of budgetary measures on pensioners generally (and this is reflected in this pre budget submission), its principal concern is with retired public servants whose pensions have been systematically reduced by emergency powers imposed by Government.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform indicated, at his meeting with the Alliance on 27th May, 2013, his intention as a matter of priority to move towards reducing the burden of the public service pension reduction, with the initial focus on people in receipt of low pensions, at the earliest date that economic progress permits. In writing to the Alliance after the meeting he formally confirmed this approach indicating that he appreciated that this was of great importance to pensioners and that this would be the subject of ongoing official discussions with the Alliance. The Alliance would wish to see that such discussions on pension restoration would commence soon.
Despite popular belief, public service pensioners are not a rich and privileged group: they have contributed to their pensions at levels considered appropriate by successive governments; the average public service pension is only E19,000 per annum; public service pensioners do not receive the state pension and, unlike their private sector pensioners in receipt of state pensions, they receive no exemptions from the universal social charge. Regularly enough their pension has to support a spouse (of whom many worked in the home and receive no state pension) and adult dependants against a background in which their life savings are gone, their pensions are cut, and like all other citizens, they still face ever increasing health, heating, transport and other charges.
The Alliance considers that the continuing use of emergency powers to reduce (by between 8% and 28%) public service pensions above E12,000 per annum now needs to be addressed, given the impact which this is having on public service pensioners and the improved economic climate since these emergency powers limiting constitutional entitlements were originally introduced. The Alliance also considers that the bands at which deductions are made should, consequentially, be shifted upwards leading to the restoration of pension entitlements over a number of years.
In the context of the current budget, the Alliance proposes that the initial priority should be on low paid pensioners and that the exemption from pension deduction should be increased from E12,000 per annum to E18,000 per annum and that consequential changes should be made, i.e. by increasing the income limit (a E6,000 increase would arise if the same formula was extended to bands above E12,000) at which the higher levels of deduction take effect.
The Alliance are also conscious that, further to the enactment of the 2013 emergency legislation, arrangements have already been agreed with serving staff that recent deductions on salaries between E65,000 and E100,000 would be removed in 2017 and 2018 and they would seek that adjustments to pensions above E32,500 should take place earlier than those dates in line with an improving economy.
Public service pensioners have spent their working lives in the service of the community. They are the only group whose pensions have been reduced by the government using emergency powers which would otherwise be unconstitutional. They fully appreciate the difficulties faced by government and are prepared to pay their fair share but basic equity dictates that those on similar incomes should, in effect, be subject to the same taxes.
The Alliance considers that the time and circumstances have now come to begin, in this budget, to reduce the burden of public service pension deductions. It may well represent a populist approach to cut public service pensions, but the concept of continuing to use emergency powers, selectively, to cut public service pensions at the level of E12, 000 is obscene and should now be addressed.
Well the Budget has been announced and unfortunately the elderly have been hit very badly. First of all the Medical Card income/pension limit has been reduced to €500 for a single person and €900 for a couple. You remember when the limit was first introduced it was €700 for a single person and €1400 for a couple, at that time it was considered that a lot of retired teachers would be just above the limit well now are there any teachers who served their full time or near full time that would qualify for a Medical Card? We have heard in recent days that only 3% of card holders would lose their card, do you believe that? Next the taxable limit for health insurance is now €1000 for an individual, costs above that have been called gold plated health cover. Anyone with a serious illness would have cover above that and they will now not receive tax relief on their cost above the €1000. If we had a decent medical care system this would not be a problem it would only be a matter of choice but with the medical care now in existence private medical care is essential. Next we had the removal of the telephone allowance, how mean can you get!! well try 41% on the interest of your savings!
We have had two reductions in our pension, added to that we have the above cuts plus the full property tax this year and the water tax coming soon how much more can we bear? If the Alliance had not been formed before now it surely would be now. Oh! I forgot the 50 cent on the bottle of wine.
Hopefully we will have a voice for the next Budget.