Saturday 19 January 2019

Talks on 'gold plated pensions' may be kicked down the road

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Photo: Tom Burke
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Photo: Tom Burke

Anne-Marie Walsh

A row has broken out over whether or not to park the thorny issue of a higher pension contribution for those on gold-plated pension schemes at talks on a new pay deal.

Sources revealed that the key matter of civil servants paying more for their lucrative retirement benefits may be shoved into a separate process for further negotiation as the clock ticks on an agreement.

There are 23,000 public servants on the best pension deals including judges, guards, prison officers and members of the defence forces.

But it is understood the Government is resisting union attempts to have the issue kicked down the road.

Sources said Government officials are demanding that all public servants pay a higher permanent contribution towards their pensions.

Unions are fighting to have newer entrants, who are on a less beneficial pension scheme since 2013, excluded.

However, any hike in payments that is agreed - on top of existing contributions - is unlikely to exceed what they are currently paying in a pension levy, worth an average 5pc of pay. The levy that was imposed under emergency legislation is likely to be unwound and part of it morphed into an extra contribution in a new deal.

"At the moment, the Government is looking for a pension contribution increase from everybody, but unions are holding the line for the post-2013 staff who are paying the pension levy and a 6.5pc contribution and not getting value on it. Unions will go hard on it."

Sources said pushing the issue of those on fast accrual schemes, who clock up a full pension with less service than most public servants, into a separate set of talks has been "mooted". But they said the Government side is baulking at it as it would mean less money for other items including pay rises.

They said a Public Service Pay Commission report recently suggested a higher contribution for those on pre-2013 schemes, and noted the higher cost of fast accrual pensions, and this would make it hard for the Government to avoid hitting them with the highest contributions.

"Is Paschal Donohoe going to say to the Dáil and to the public that this was in the report and he didn't insist upon it?" they asked.

The issue is a minefield as staff are on varied schemes, which makes deciding percentage contributions very complex.

Mr Donohoe is expected to be more likely to make a concession on the demand to axe premium payments for those working on Saturday, as this was not addressed in the report.

Some figures believe that gardaí should take a bigger hit on their pensions as payback for a €50m deal they got for which other staff have only been partly compensated. However, workers including fire-fighters would also be hit in the pocket.

Irish Independent

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