Pensions and job security to quell public pay demands

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Pension values will be firmly on the negotiating table after it was revealed a garda’s retirement pot is worth from €30,000 to €40,000 a year. Unions are also demanding that their members’ job security not be used “against them” in a comparison with private sector workers’ pay. However, senior Government sources told the Irish Independent that terms and conditions, like pensions and permanency, will have to come into the equation in the next round of pay talks. “If you make the comparison between public and private sector, then that has to be taken into account,” the source said. “You do have to put a high value on all of that.” Industrial relations consultant John Horgan put a monetary value on the lucrative Garda pensions in a move that will have deep implications for the rest of the public sector. In a review of An Garda Síochána, the former chairman of the Labour Court said the value of garda retirement benefits pushes their average remuneration up to €100,000. The report says gardaí who strike should be sanctioned, but gardaí should be given trade union rights. Mr Horgan also said the pay commission set up to advise the Government should carry out a detailed examination of State workers’ pension benefits. Mr Horgan said to fund garda pensions, which are paid out of current revenue, gardaí would have to be paid an extra €40,000 in after-tax income – equal to an extra 80pc of pay. “This would bring total remuneration of the average garda to the equivalent of in excess of €100,000 before tax,” he said. “I realise that these estimates are rough and ready, and a more accurate valuation should be conducted on the value of these benefits.” Unions want more wage hikes on top of increases due under the Lansdowne Road Agreement. If similar values were put on the pensions and entitlements of other State employees, it could significantly reduce the ability of a new Public Service Pay Commission to recommend further pay increases. The commission is carrying out its own exercise to put a valuation on pensions. But it will not be evaluating the pensions of individual grades. Under its terms of reference, the commission should “have regard to” the superannuation and other benefits applying in the public service. Yesterday, the Pay Commission met the public service union leaders who argue that the value of pensions has fallen in recent years. In a submission, the unions have also asked the commission not to use their members’ job security “against them” in a comparison with private sector workers’ pay. Economist Jim Power said Mr Horgan’s valuation could be a gamechanger but questioned how hard the Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe would negotiate. “Those of us in the private sector, particularly those who are self-employed don’t have the luxury of a pension,” he told the Irish Independent. “It should definitely be centre and top of the whole pay negotiations.” A spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said it is not speculating on any outcomes to the process of discussions under the Lansdowne Road Agreement.