Thursday 19 September 2019

Workers want scheme to give extra time off for 'transition' to retirement

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Anne-Marie Walsh

Public servants have sought a scheme to give workers extra time off before they retire to help them "transition" to life outside the workforce.

A motion tabled by Fórsa's Dún Laoghaire Rathdown branch urged its leaders to campaign to give staff the additional leave in the two years before they retire.

Members of the branch argued that the motion should not even be necessary.

They said it was tabled as it was getting more difficult for staff to get access to a shorter working year and work-sharing schemes.

"We have to find other ways of improving access to these schemes," said one speaker. "It is an important cohort of workers who need to see the situation improved."

But Fórsa official Andy Pike argued the proposal was not specific on how the leave would be used or if it was needed.

He said if it allowed for a reduction in the working week, it could be open to misinterpretation and these were "not headlines we need".

Mr Pike said other forms of leave, including bereavement leave, have a clear purpose and there are some very good pre-retirement courses available.

He said it was necessary to pin down exactly what was needed to assist members in retirement before any case was put to employers.

The branch agreed to remit the motion to the union's National Executive Committee. This means it is neither accepted nor rejected but will be considered by the union leaders.

Delegates also voted against the introduction of a "metropolitan weighting allowance" that would help cover the higher cost of living in big cities.

They rejected a motion calling for the allowance that would be similar to payments - worth in the region of €3,000 to €4,000 a year in some instances - that are paid to staff including civil servants in London.

Members of the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown branch said the cost of housing was a driving force in tabling the proposal.

They told delegates that despite higher transport costs in rural areas, the Nevin Institute calculated that the cost of living in Dublin is €70 a week higher than in other parts of the country.

However, Fórsa officials argued that the idea is misguided, dangerous and wrong, and would introduce a two-tier pay system.

"It's like using a bucket of water to put out a fire but finding petrol in the bucket," said one delegate.

It was argued that the payments would divide workers in the country from workers in the city.

Meanwhile, public servants have threatened to go on strike if they do not get a shorter working day or a 5pc pay rise.

Delegates backed a motion calling on its leaders to enter talks with Government officials as soon as possible to enable them to return to shorter working hours.

If not, they will ballot for industrial action up to strike action.

Public servants are required to work an extra two hours and 15 minutes a week, or 27 minutes a day, under a previous pay deal.

In the civil service, the increase meant the working week rose from 34 hours and 45 minutes to 37 hours.

Workers can opt out of the arrangement but must take a pay cut to reflect the reduction.

Irish Independent

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