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 Header Item Public Sector Pay (Continued)
 Header Item Pension Provisions

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 953 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] They will ask me what measures we are taking to improve services elsewhere.

If we are going to do all of that, this has to be an agreement that is affordable and recognises that meeting all of the competing demands also has a cost. It is because I want to address the need to recognise the contribution our public servants have made to our society and economy that we are involved in negotiations to determine whether we can secure an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement.

Pension Provisions

 4. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe his Department's objectives regarding public sector pensions in view of the current pay talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [26406/17]

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane This question relates to the objectives of the Department and Minister in respect of public sector pensions, in view of the current pay talks. I note that the commission on public sector pay has raised the issue of pensions. It is a red herring that has been injected into pay talks and is potentially being used as leverage by the Government side in respect of issues relating to pay restoration and other issues. I am interested in hearing the Minister's objectives in respect of pensions and the current pay talks.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe When inviting the public services committee of ICTU last month to the public service pay talks which are now in progress, I indicated a separate process of consultation would take place with an association representing public service pensioners. Most recently, my officials met representatives of the Alliance of Retired Public Servants who articulated the concerns and interests of public service pensioners in regard the impact of the financial emergency in the public interest legislation on pensions in payment through the operation of the public service pension reduction, PSPR, and related matters. A further meeting is planned.

I should point out that a very significant part-unwinding of PSPR in three stages is taking place under FEMPI 2015, with PSPR affected pensioners getting pension increases via substantial restoration of the PSPR cuts on 1 January 2016, 1 January 2017 and 1 January 2018. This three-stage part-unwinding of PSPR is delivering significant pensions increases to PSPR-affected pensioners.

On 1 January 2016, all pensions of up to at least €18,700 became exempt from PSPR. From 1 January 2017, all pensions of up to at least €26,000 are now exempt from PSPR, and from 1 January 2018 all pensions of up to at least €34,132 per year will be exempt from PSPR. Those pensioners not fully removed from the reach of PSPR by dint of these changes will, in the majority of cases, benefit by €1,680 per year from 2018. The cost of these changes is estimated at approximately €90 million on a full-year basis from 2018.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane The Alliance of Retired Public Servants recently posted a startling fact, namely, that around 4,000 retired public sector pensioners pass on every year. The cuts in pensions was one of the cruellest of many cruel cuts over the past number of years. The Minister said an effort was made to restore some of those cuts, and there has been, but it has been too slow for many retired public servant.

In our alternative budget last year, we advocated that for those in receipt of a gross pension income band of on or below €34,132 the restoration they would receive in 2017 and 2018 would be combined, alongside last year's budget change. That would have cost €6.8 million and accelerated the restoration for that cohort of pensioners. Of course, the Minister's party and Government chose to cut taxes instead.

In respect of the PRD, the Minister has chosen to put that on the negotiating table in respect of the current pay talks as a bargaining chip. He has also put faster accrual pensions on the table. He failed to note that they are in place for a reason. They apply to public servants in uniform who are statutorily required to retire early.

I understand and accept that the issue of pensions is difficult. It has to be addressed, in terms of public and private sector pensions. Many issues need to be addressed, but they should not be a bargaining chip in terms of pay talks that should be dealing with pay restoration, which we all accept needs to happen over a reasonable time period, along with equal work for equal pay and all of the other issues such as retention in the public service and sectoral issues.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe All the Deputy is offering is hollow rhetoric. He stands up on issue after issue, and in respect of groups that have been affected by the decisions that were made and the calamity of the crisis the country went through he brings them all in and promises them Sinn Féin will give them everything they want. It is hollow rhetoric at best.

Deputies stand in the House and say they want issues like pay restoration dealt with and that we should invest more in the here and now in our schools and hospitals. I agree there is a need to do that. They also stand up and say that pensioners need more and they need it now, and that Sinn Féin will give it to them. Sinn Féin promises anyone who comes into its representatives all they want.

That may work on the Opposition benches, but it is the route to going back to the kind of crisis our country is trying to put behind us. Why do Opposition Deputies not recognise that by 1 January 2018 anybody who is receiving a pension of €34,000 will see the PSPR eliminated? The kind of changes that the Government felt needed to be brought in to help our country get out of the crisis will be eliminated by that point.

As the Deputy knows, we need to bear in mind that the average level of pension payment for somebody in receipt of a pension is €23,000 for a former public service worker. The measures that we have in place up to next year look to deal, in so far as we can, with the kind of agenda and anxiety to which the Deputy referred.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy can ask a brief supplementary question.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane It is not brief. We have a set time for questions. The Minister has given his response.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputies always know when they are cut short, but never note when they are allowed over time.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I will not take lectures from the Minister about hollow rhetoric, that is for sure. I do not promise people everything. If the Minister had bothered to read the submission document I sent to him in respect of our proposals on public sector pay, he would see that we said it was not possible to unwind all of the FEMPI cuts in one go or in one round of pay talks or one pay agreement. Instead, we had to prioritise. We set out our priorities. We did not promise people everything.

Fine Gael, of course, promised to abolish the universal social charge, a promise it dumped in recent times, if the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Leo Varadkar, is anything to go by. It also promised universal health insurance, a promise it has dumped. Given all of the big promises made by the Government, perhaps it should examine them before it attacks any other party.

With respect, I do not promise people all that they want and tell them they can have whatever they want. I believe in fairness and equality. We should, of course, cut our cloth according to our measure. The Government gave significant pay restoration to those earning above €65,000 and gave €1,000 to those earning below €65,000. That was a political choice that the Minister and Government, and not my party, made.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Deputy may declaim that he accepts the need to cut our choices according to the resources that are available, but I never see any evidence of this from Sinn Féin. I read the document to which the Deputy referred and I am aware of what he wants to do from a public pay policy point of view. My point is still very strong against all that the Deputy claims.

Every member of the Deputy's party promises that every problem would be immediately fixable if more money was spent. That is not the case. We have a certain amount of revenue that we take in every year in tax, we have expectations about how that will grow in the future and we know what we are able to do.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I accept that.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe We are able to borrow on top of that. We have to make choices available to us on the basis of the funding we have. If we do not do that-----

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane The Minister is making things up.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I am very used to this. It does not make any difference. Again and again, I see that Sinn Féin is well able to dole it out but is not able to take it back. The only way it can respond to its arguments being challenged is in the same manner as Deputy Cullinane.


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