The 2018 Biennial General Meeting of the Alliance of Retired Public Servants took place in the FORSA offices on September 20th 2018. This meeting was due to take place in May, but was deferred because its Secretary and Chair were both unavailable due to illness and commitments abroad. The Officers elected at the BGM were: Gerry Foley as Chair, Joe Dirwan as Vice-chair, Mick Duffy as Treasurer, and joint secretaries Carmel Heneghan and myself. Jim McCarthy’s term on the Council ended and I replaced him. The RMA were represented at the BGM by Jim McCarthy, Tim O’Meara, Dan Keane and Martin Hoye.
The Council of the Alliance has met three times since its BGM on September 20th. It met on 29th of November, the 28th 0f February and on April 30th. Its Officer Board met on October 22nd and on January 28th. Its Officers on deputations met prior to the meetings with Deputy Cowen on November 29th, Deputy Brid Smith on April 4th, Brendan Howlin’s Advisor, Nat O’Connor on February 8th and DPER Officials on February 28th.
The Officers and the Alliance Council have continued to pursue the aims previously prioritised: Full Restoration of Public Service Pensions; Statutory Negotiation Rights; and preservation of Pension Parity following the end of the Public Service Stability Agreement. These targets constituted the main agenda items for our deputations during the year.
Minister Donohoe’s response to a number of Dáil questions has not been accurate, or encouraging in either tone or content. He appears to believe that Public Service pensioners have had ‘major improvements’ in their pensions, and he has emphasised that the PSSA contained a ‘time-limited’ and ‘conditions-bound’ return to the method of pension calculation which preceded the recession in 2009. He also feels that PS pensioners are adequately consulted on pension issues. The Alliance has responded to him through the DPER officials, and have sought a meeting with him. Some members of the Alliance Council have taken the view that Parity is not under threat because of the conversion of the PRD to an extra Pension contribution – the final phase of Pay restoration. However, the mechanism for introducing CPI linkage is contained in Section 40 of the Single Pension Act of 2013 – which introduced ‘career averaging’ for new entrants to the Public Service.
It is not entirely clear at this point whether it would be possible to get an amendment included in the Industrial Relations Amendment Act 2018 to allow for representation of pensioners at the Workplace Relations Commission. The Amendment Act deals with the inclusion of An Gárda Siochána at negotiations. The difficulty is that it is the ‘Workplace’ Relations Commission. There is another consideration – Should we be successful in getting statutory protection for ‘Parity’, negotiating rights might not be to our advantage in the long run.
You are aware that in 2018, Public Service pensions up to €30k were fully restored. In January 2019, pensions up to €39k were scheduled for full restoration, and from January 2020 pensions up to €54k are scheduled for full restoration. At this point it is extremely unlikely that any acceleration is possible in this process. However, we will be seeking to have the date for full pension restoration announced with the next Finance Bill – as the dates for full pay restoration are already set out in the PSSA.
We have witnessed a debacle since January arising from the attempts to schedule ‘catch-up’ adjustments for the ‘post February 2012’ retirees at the same time as the PSPR restoration. Emails, phone calls and letters have been used to alert DPER and the PSSC of our dissatisfaction and disgust with the inordinate delays in restoring both. The Alliance is continuing to seek a solution for this mess.
Other issues have been raised with the DPER officials:
· the USC anomaly (state pension v Public Service pension);
· means testing for the ‘under 70s’ for the Household Benefits Package;
· the non-adjustment of lump sum calculations for the post February 2012 retirees; and
· Medical Card provision for all from age 70.
Other deputations are planned and it is likely that a major lobbying campaign will be undertaken in the run-up to the next General Election to advance the aims set out above.
The Alliance is grateful for the support of its constituent bodies and the commitment of the membership.
Let me be clear about this. I am deeply unhappy with the response from DPER and the PSSC on the late payment issue. It would appear that despite having in excess of 140,000 affiliated members, the Alliance is not taken seriously. The day may come when the Alliance will be forced to ‘up its game’. I would hope that when that happens, RMATUI won’t be found wanting.