On January 17th, Tom Geraghty, Secretary to the Public Services Committee (PSC) of ICTU and PSEU General Secretary, announced a further partial pay restoration above the level originally envisaged in the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Under the terms of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, all Public Servants on a pay scale below €65,000 were to see their pay point increase by €1,000 (annualised). Thus, Public Servants were to get the benefit of this restoration in their wages in their September to December wage packets. However, the result of this latest negotiation will see that benefit being paid from April 1st instead.
This increase will amount to a restoration of approximately €38.33 to each fortnightly pay period (subject to the usual deductions of tax, PRSI, etc).
In a Circular issued to all Branches, the General Secretary noted:
“Members will note that agreement has been reached on a ‘down payment’ by the Government to address the anomaly created by the settlement with the Garda Associations. This settlement involves bringing forward the €1,000 partial restoration due from 1 September 2017 to all Public Servants earning below €65,000 per annum to 1 April 2017.”
It was further noted that this set of negotiations took place within the parameters of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and was, therefore, not a separate Agreement.
What is particularly noteworthy is the promise of further pay interactions with the Government during 2017. The Government’s position that there would not be a new pay agreement until the expiry of the Lansdowne Road Agreement in 2018 changed in November. They have conceded that a new pay agreement should be reached in advance of 2018. This follows a concerted effort by Public Sector Unions that have argued for the acceleration of pay recovery because of evidence of an improvement in public finances.
In order to have the cost of a new agreement factored into the 2018 budget, it will have to be in place well in advance of the October budget deadline.
What is sought is simple: an unwinding to all measures that were introduced in FEMPI legislation.
There is broad agreement amongst unions on the subjects of pay restoration and pension protection. There is then a category of issues that have varying levels of importance for different unions. For the PSEU, the additional unpaid working time that members have undertaken since the Haddington Road Agreement is clearly an issue and one that falls into this category.
In relation to pensions, our message is clear: It is absolutely wrong to distract from the failing private sector pension models by launching an attack on public sector pension systems. And yet, this has happened. A pension, as US Senator Elizabeth Warren commented, “is nothing more than deferred compensation.” It is something people earn. It is also something that people contribute towards. It is not a meaningless, unearned figure. The unions are committed to the protection of pension entitlements. There will be no agreement to cuts in these entitlements. Unions will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that public servants are not forced into poverty in old age.
Writing in an op ed piece in the Irish Examiner in December, Bernard Harbor of Impact noted:
“For all its imperfections, Ireland’s public service pay system has a coherence and basic fairness that’s been highly valued by successive Governments, and by the people who work in our hospitals, colleges, council depots and civil service settings…
What’s more, while it has its modest number of high earners, the public sector is not burdened by the obscene gaps between boardroom rewards and shop floor pay that are now entrenched in much of the private sector.”
In 2017, we will look to build upon the momentum that has been gathering for pay restoration. We expect a full pay engagement on foot of the publication of the Public Service Pay Commission Report. Between this and the proposed amalgamation of the PSEU, CPSU and Impact, the ballot for which is likely to take place in the autumn, 2017 is shaping up to be a most interesting year.