Almost on a daily basis we read of some Government leaked memo as to likely further cuts in Public Service pensions. The usual rhetoric in relation to Rolls Royce pensions for the select retired Public Service is repeated, without reference to the facts that the average Public Service pensions stands on an average of €22,500 per annum. This of course does not feed into the print media agenda, facts was always far down their agenda. The Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) I understand delivered its report to Government, so the process of serious Pay discussion now begins. I emphasise pay as the PSPC did not accept submissions in relation to Pensions, but rather have been tasked with reference to the value of such Public Service pensions. The factual position is as follows:-

Talks on an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA) will commence most likely next week. . The talks will aim to set a timetable for the unwinding of emergency legislation that introduced pay cuts and the pension levy at the height of the economic crisis. The PSPC was been charged with addressing “how the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Service (FEMPI) should proceed.” Remember FEMPI legislation has to be renewed each year before the end of June, so we will all look with interest as to what Government will do next month in this regard. If Government renew FEMPI for yet another year, it makes a farce of this entire process yet again. If on the other hand hey do not and let this new process take its course then there is some hope that they are serious about the restoration of Pay & pensions, as promised, at all forums, but especially through the negotiations with the Alliance of Retired Public servants.

The commission was asked to take account of public-private pay comparisons, international pay trends, security of tenure and the value of public service pensions. Recent statistics from the Central Statistics Office are useful on the first of these. Published in March, they showed that that public service workers now earn slightly less than their private sector counterparts when you take account of the so-called ‘pension levy,’ and factors such as occupation, education and length of service.

However, the value of public sector pensions and the contribution that public servants make towards their retirement income will be a major issue of contention in the talks. Unions and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform submitted different assessments of the cost of public service pensions to the PSPC. And the minister has indicated that he will seek increased contributions to the cost of pensions as FEMPI is unwound. We can only presume this amendment to proposed legislation is likely to fall on new entrants to the Public Service, rather than those of us who have completed our service and enjoy our reduced pensions, and living in the hope of restoration to the levels we have contributed to and completed our part of our contracts with the State.

ICTU’s Public Services Committee (PSC), which coordinates the union voice in talks, has argued that public servants already pay PSRI and contribute 6.5% in superannuation contributions. The pension levy represents a further 10% or 10.5% contribution, depending on earnings over €28,750 a year. Unions also point out that staff who joined the public service since 2013 have significantly reduced pension provision.

Both sides are anxious to conclude the negotiation as quickly as possible so that any agreement can be balloted and, if accepted, reflected in next year’s budget calculations.