Friday 23 February 2018

Union boss wants members' 'stolen' salaries restored

Maria Ryan, president of the Public Service Executive Union, at the union’s conference in Co Galway. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Maria Ryan, president of the Public Service Executive Union, at the union’s conference in Co Galway. Photo: Hany Marzouk

Anne Marie Walsh and Kevin Doyle

A union chief has condemned "beggar my neighbour" calls to cut public service pensions and warned that unions will not agree to a deal that reduces their entitlements.

President of the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) Maria Ryan said unions may have to build protections for pensions into any agreement at talks due to begin next month.

She also warned that State workers face a "big challenge" - due to economic uncertainties including Brexit and the Donald Trump presidency - to get back pay cuts that were "stolen" from them.

Ms Ryan said the purported value of public service pensions had generated massive amounts of commentary, most of which was in the form of complaining that they were "so good".

The background to this is that there has been an erosion of occupational pension cover in the private sector, she said.

"Rather than generate justifiable indignation that this has occurred, the effect has been to cause an inordinate amount of 'beggar my neighbour' calls to disimprove public service pensions," she said.

"We need to provide members with some certainty that they will not face into poverty in their old age and we need to ensure that their pensions are funded adequately into the future.

"I believe that agreement on this is possible, provided that there are no unreasonable expectations on the other side."

The union's agenda at upcoming talks on a deal to replace the Lansdowne Road Agreement will be to ensure they get full restoration of €1.4bn pay cuts that still apply to their salaries, she said.

But she said members had to recognise that all of their lost income would not be restored in one go and a deal may span a few years.

Responding to the early €1.4bn demand, a spokesperson for Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Public Service Pay Commission will produce a report in the coming weeks.

"This report will form the basis for public service pay negotiations. Any pay settlement emitting from these negotiations must be affordable and sustainable," they said.

Fianna Fáil expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary told the Irish Independent he is looking forward to getting the report and "will engage" with all sides afterwards.

Ms Ryan was addressing the PSEU's annual conference, which opened yesterday afternoon in Galway.

"The agenda of public service unions is to seek a deal from those discussions that will 'break the back' of the Fempi (cuts) impositions so that by the end of any agreement negotiated, we will see full income restoration for all our members," she said.

"That is a big challenge against a background of some uncertainty due to events external to this country, such as Brexit and the Trump presidency.

"However, it is a challenge for all unions to face up to as the time has come for us to have restored what was stolen from us."

She said the removal of those cuts must be the unions' objective and it was an outcome that they should not allow themselves to doubt.

Ms Ryan noted once the Pay Commission reports, it was expected that talks would begin within four to five weeks.

Irish Independent

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