Friday 22 September 2017

Kenny hints that public pensions on table in talks

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has raised concerns about the growth in the 'gap' between pensions in the public and private sectors. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has raised concerns about the growth in the 'gap' between pensions in the public and private sectors. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has raised concerns about the growth in the "gap" between pensions in the public and private sectors.

He said the Government was "anxious" that the matter be considered by the Public Service Pay Commission and also restated the commitment to the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA).

How the Irish Independent broke news of the pensions issue
How the Irish Independent broke news of the pensions issue

Earlier this week the Irish Independent revealed that an end to pension increases for retired public sector workers was on the table in the next round of pay talks.

The Government could potentially save billions by breaking the link between public sector pension increases and State worker pay hikes.

Mr Kenny's comments are a further signal that a review of pension arrangements may form a significant part of the Government's dealings with looming pay demands by public sector unions.

Significantly, he made his remarks about public sector pensions unprompted as part of a wide-ranging statement ahead of a round-table interview with reporters.

"In respect of public pay, Government has decided that the public pay commission has been asked to take into account the value of public pensions," he said.

Mr Kenny added that Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe will not deal with his strategy for public pay until the Public Pay Commission sends its report to Government. This is due as early as April.

Mr Kenny said that the Government remained "fully supportive" of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and the structures to roll back FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest), which was prompted by the economic crash.

A total of €1.4bn cut from wages under these measures has yet to be refunded.

Returning to the issue of pensions, the Mr Kenny added: "Clearly, the gap between private pensions and public pensions will have grown so the Government is anxious that the public pay commission will be allowed to do its work in that regard and report back...in due course."

His comments echo Mr Donohoe's, who said future pay negotiations had to take account of the value of public pensions.

"The reason for that is my expectation that the difference between public and private pensions has now widened in recent years," he told the Irish Independent.

His department has legislation on the books that would stop State workers' pensions rising when someone in the grade from which they retired gets a pay rise.

Now pay rises are back on the agenda, Mr Donohoe is expected to give the cost-cutting measure fresh consideration,

Pay increases for public sector workers worth €290m are due under the LRA in 2017.

Those earning more than €65,000 are due their pay rise in April, with lower earners set to see a €1,000 increase in September.

Talks on a successor to the LRA are due to take place in the summer, with unions poised to demand further pay rises.

Irish Independent

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