The Teachers’ Union of Ireland executive committee has voted unanimously to recommend rejection of the proposed public service pay agreement because it fails to tackle pay inequality for newer recruits.
The TUI represents around 15,000 second and third level teachers and lecturers.
“An unwinding of the unacceptable, unfair and inequitable two-tier pay system was the key priority for TUI on entering the recent negotiations. Wherever and whenever possible, we vigorously pushed the issue forward,” said TUI President Joanne Irwin.
“It remains completely unacceptable to us that two colleagues, recruited within days of one another, are paid significantly different rates for carrying out the same work. TUI has prioritised and campaigned on this issue and some progress has been made.
“The draft proposed agreement would have the effect of blocking further progress for at least three years,” she said.
ASTI General Secretary Kieran Christie said the agreement was extremely disappointing in failing to adequately address the issue of lower pay for new entrants.
General Secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers Mike Jennings said the deal did not have everything they could have wished for, but the main thing for members was that the FEMPI legislation must be completely and utterly buried.
Earlier, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said if the public pay proposals are accepted, industrial action will not be a route that participating unions can go down if they have signed up to the agreement.
Paschal Donohoe said the benefit for those working in the agreement is it that it offers wage growth which is affordable to the exchequer up to 2020.
He said the summer economic statement is under way and the reason the agreement is affordable is the pace of wage growth, which is reflected across the entire economy.
The minister said the extension to the Lansdowne Road Agreement required a balance regarding the additional hours.
He noted the Croke Park hours, which he said made a significant difference to the delivery of front line services like schools.
He said if those hours are lost, the Exchequer would have to double the number of people it is looking to hire this year in order to retain the same level of front line services.
However, the minister said if there are public servants that are facing challenges from a work/life balance point of view, there would be an opportunity for them not to work those hours.
But he said in interest of fairness if they are not working those hours, they will not get paid for them.
Regarding the pension levy, Minister Donohoe said he made clear from the outset of the process that public service pensions and their sustainability would have to be dealt with in a way that reflects the value of the pensions.
He said in the Public Service Pay Commission report, which many people had different view on, it laid out a methodology which said pensions – particularly pre-2013 pensions – have a high value in the context of what is available in the context of the economy and it has to be reflected in any agreement reached.
The minister said he reached the draft agreement with the unions after “very difficult” negotiations because, he said, it is a change that is needed.
Mr Donohoe said he will take the deal to Government for discussion and “arrangements will also be made to put it to ballot across the range public service sectors to which it applies, with a view to being endorsed by union members over the coming weeks”.
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, Dara Calleary, said substantial challenges remain on pay and conditions.
“This agreement is vague at best when it comes to the issue of pay equalisation. Workers who joined after 2013 will still be paid less than their colleagues who took up their posts before then, despite doing the exact same job.
“This is a major issue and the Government must outline in more detail how it intends to deal with it.
“Staff retention is another key issue affecting the public sector; however this agreement fails to fully address the measures needed to address it.
“In areas like nursing and the Defence Forces numbers have been falling to critical levels. This not only affects the services themselves, but also the conditions that existing employees are working under,” added Mr Colleary.
IMPACT Director of Communications Bernard Harbor said that on balance the deal was the best that could be achieved.
He said the restoration for the lowest paid was in line with the best deals currently being done in the private sector and the most important thing on the non-pay front was that unions had maintained the protections against outsourcing that they had had since the height of the economic crisis, describing this as a really important win for the trade union side.
However, he expressed disappointment that there had not been more movement on the issues of unpaid working hours and new entrants.
He stressed that by the end of the deal, 90% of all public servants would be out of the FEMPI pay provisions, while a quarter would be exempt from onerous pension contributions.
SIPTU’s Health Division Organiser has said the “key objective” of protecting jobs from being outsourced has been satisfied by the agreement.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, Paul Bell said it was imperative that members have job security and no compulsory redundancies over the next three years.
He said this is important for all members but especially low paid workers because “they’re the ones who can feel under pressure from budgetary cuts, and if they’re in a situation where their jobs can be outsourced.”
Other key issues for SIPTU were the removal of the majority of members from the effects of FEMPI legislation. He said this legislation has been used to cut members’ salaries since 2009.
Mr Bell added that the stability that comes from the draft agreement is very important for members, and acknowledged that not everything can be achieved in negotiations over public pay.
Nursing unions unhappy with pay deal
INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said there were still details to be tidied up in relation to their concerns about staff shortages and recruitment and retention problems.
The INMO had sought special financial incentives and pay parity with grades including physiotherapists – but did not secure any special increases, though there will be a review conducted by the Public Service Pay Commission.
Mr Doran said they needed details of how exactly the issue will be handled, the speed at which it will be handled, and the proximity of delivering an outcome which has to addresses the crisis that has not gone away.
He said nurses could not wait for two or three years and the Government knows that.
The INMO executive will consider the document on Monday and Tuesday before putting it out to ballot.
General Secretary of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants Ciaran Rohan said that while there were some reasonably positive aspects, it was disappointing that it would take five-and-a-half years for higher paid grades to come out of FEMPI.
He said that was not something they had envisaged when the crisis started in 2008.
Recruitment and retention of staff
There is no general problem with recruitment and retention of staff across the public service, according to sources at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
A number of unions, including the INMO, had argued for special pay incentives to make grades experiencing staff shortages more attractive.
However, the Department refused to concede any such special increases, but has agreed to the establishment of a process to provide evidence on the scale and nature of such difficulties.
They acknowledged there could be issues in some areas including nurses, and said they were happy to engage further on any evidence that emerges.
They said pay rates for graduates in the civil service, or teachers’ starting pay of €35,000 were sufficiently attractive to bring people in, adding that they were “not minded to overpay people for the work they do”.
The sources said the department had succeeded in its key priorities: retaining the 15 million unpaid hours per year which were imposed under austerity, and converting most of the “temporary” public service pension levy into a permanent higher contribution for guaranteed public service pensions, which are generally viewed as superior to those in the private sector.
27% of the lowest paid workers will be exempt from the converted pension levy.
The new arrangements mean that the state will retain €550 million of the €720 million per year which is currently generated from the pension levy.
The sources also stressed that by the end of the new deal in 2020, 90% of public servants will have exited the emergency cuts imposed during the crisis.
The sources said that unlike with previous agreements, there would be no unpublished “side deals”. They said there might be one or two “small issues” but they would be published.
The sources also stressed that the negotiations are now over – and there is no scope for further “tidying up” of issues as mentioned after the talks by the INMO.