Wednesday 18 September 2019

Teachers now prepare to do battle for equal pensions and pay hike

Unions want full wage equality and retirement review as they reach end of nine-year campaign to reverse cuts

Voting: Teachers from the Bray branch of the ASTI, Donna Marie McFaul and Yvonne Rossiter. Photo: Frank McGrath
Voting: Teachers from the Bray branch of the ASTI, Donna Marie McFaul and Yvonne Rossiter. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anne-Marie Walsh, Katherine Donnelly and Ralph Riegel

Teachers will now battle for equal pensions for recent recruits after securing a Government commitment to address two-tier pay.

They are also lining up their demands for a pay rise now their nine-year battle to achieve full wage equality appears to be moving into its final phase.

The three teacher unions called for an immediate review of a lower-cost pension scheme rolled out six years ago to shave billions of euro from future exchequer costs.

In a joint statement, the INTO, ASTI and TUI signalled any future talks on pay must seek to reverse the cuts.

But the Government is likely to vigorously oppose any attempt to alter the terms of the pension scheme it rolled out for staff hired after 2013.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe previously revealed the Single Public Service Pension Scheme would slash the state's massive €114bn public pensions liability by 35pc over time.

Education Minister Joe McHugh with ASTI President Breda Lynch Photo: Frank McGrath
Education Minister Joe McHugh with ASTI President Breda Lynch Photo: Frank McGrath

"The ASTI, along with the other teacher unions INTO and TUI, will be seeking an improved pension scheme for those who entered teaching since 2013," said general secretary Kieran Christie.

"Currently these teachers are paying a similar amount into their pension as their colleagues but their pension benefits are significantly inferior."

In the single scheme, pensions are calculated based on a public servant's average earnings during their career rather than final salary.

Although a cheaper scheme, it is still defined benefit and guarantees the value of the pension and lump sum.

The unions said teachers are paying up to 17pc of their earnings towards retirement but their entitlements have been diluted considerably.

"That these teachers are contributing so highly to a pension which will be at most modest in retirement is a huge concern for teachers in this new scheme," said the INTO in a statement.

Union leaders have also made clear they are ready to pursue their first cost-of-living increase since before the financial crash.

They are putting it on to on the agenda for talks on the next public service pay agreement after the current one expires at the end of next year.

Speaking at the INTO annual conference incoming general secretary John Boyle said teachers had not received a pay rise since 2007.

He said by the end of 2020, it would be 14 years, a period during which inflation had increased by 7pc, while teachers have endured pay cuts and the loss of allowances.

Mr Boyle noted the Central Bank was predicting wage growth of 7pc across the economy in the coming year.

TUI general secretary John MacGabhann echoed the same theme in his opening address to his union's conference.

He said the next pay negotiations must provide significant pay increases and the general election that may well precede those talks must be used to secure the commitment of political parties to pay rises.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Joe McHugh gave strong assurances to ASTI members their outstanding issues on pay inequality will get "full consideration".

"And just to reiterate and reemphasise," he told the ASTI convention in Wexford, "this is not a but and it's not an if.

"This is to be given full consideration, and you have my support on that.

"It's an issue that I've been raising for six months now.

"I say it's unfinished business and I'm hoping now within the possibility of the review of the current mechanism or the next round of pay talks that we will have a resolution to this."

When asked if Government policy is inconsistent given that Mr Donohoe said a previous deal dealt fully with the two tier pay issue, he said policy "evolves" .

"When I came into this job last October, I was a new minister for Education and Skills.

"At that time, I was very, very, adamant from the conversations I was hearing prior to my appointment that I wanted something done in regards to this," he said.

He said exploratory talks on a pay review and how it might "inform discussions on a potential successor agreement" are underway.

The minister also promised "constructive" talks on sanctions imposed on members for taking industrial action.

Irish Independent

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