Public Service Stability Agreement

Your Questions Answered

Last updated: Tuesday 18th July (14:25)

How your branch voted

 

Download a full copy of the proposed agreement HERE

Watch: IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody addresses a few key questions about what the proposed Public Sector Stability Agreement (PSSA) means for pension benefits, what happens to the pension levy, how the recent talks dealt with these issues and how incomes will be affected.

Watch: This short information video by IMPACT outlines the recent history of changes to Irish public service new entrants pay scales, and how the proposed Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) is designed to address it.

Ballot arrangements: Your questions answered

Benefits table

This document shows a series of tables provided by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) which show the effects on pay and pensions of the proposed agreement.

  • Table 1 shows the effect on the Non-Single Scheme (the pre-2013 public service pensions scheme)
  • Table 2 shows the effect on the Single Scheme (post 2013).
  • There are no alterations to the current pension levy terms for ‘fast accrual’ groups (such as gardai, prison officers, firefighters etc.).

Table 3 demonstrates the overall effect of pay restoration measures on the various paybands by 2021. Groups who are not fully out of the FEMPI pay cuts by the end of this agreement, in 2020, will have their pay fully restored during 2021/2022

What do the proposals mean for my income overall?

  • By 2020, more than 90% of public servants will be out of FEMPI pay provisions, and almost a quarter will have exited FEMPI pension levy payments
  • 73% of public servants gain more than 7% by 2020
  • 1st January 2018: 1% pay adjustment
  • 1st October 2018: 1% pay adjustment
  • 1st January 2019: Pension levy threshold up from €28,750 to €32,000 (worth €325pa)
  • 1st January 2019: 1% pay adjustment for those earning less than €30,000
  • 1st September 2019: 1.75% pay adjustment
  • 1st January 2020: Pension levy threshold increased to €34,500 (worth €250pa)
  • 1st January 2020: 0.5% pay increase for those earning less than €32,000
  • 1st October 2020: 2% pay adjustment

This table (please click on the highlighted link) sets out the combined pay and pension levy adjustments in the different salary bands. Column 6 of the main table shows the total percentage adjustment for staff employed before January 2011 (excluding those with ‘fast accrual’ pension arrangements). Column 4 of the second table shows the same for staff employed after that date.

What about restoration of the Haddington Road pay cuts?

The 2011 Haddington Road agreement introduced temporary pay cuts for staff who earned €65,000 a year or more. This was a third pay cut, which didn’t apply to staff on less than €65,000 a year. The restoration of these cuts began in April 2017. Full restoration of this cut will be implemented, as previously agreed, on 1st January 2018.

How these proposals address the concerns of ‘new entrants’ – people who started work after 2011?

UPDATED: 19th October 2017

Union representatives met public service management in October 2017 to discuss new entrant pay issues. Management confirmed that 53,000 workers had been hired since lower ‘new entrant’ scales were unilaterally introduced by the government in 2011. They also acknowledged that unions had opposed the new scales, and had used the first opportunity available at the time of the Haddington Road Agreement to equalise the maximum points of the scales. The meeting agreed that data will be gathered from all sectors to identify the incremental scale points of all new entrants. Once this data is gathered the two sides will meet again to examine costings for any solutions.

The new entrant pay scales were introduced by a previous Government in 2010, without agreement. The new scales were set at 90% of the pre-existing scale points. This was opposed by unions at the time and no union agreed to the new terms.

The first opportunity to address the issue arose in talks on the Haddington Road Agreement in 2013. Unions secured an agreement to merge the new entrant pay scales with the pre-existing pay scales. The effect of the 2013 improvement was to place the new entrants on the old rates albeit with two additional incremental points.

In short, the remaining concern of the majority of new entrants to the public service is that they have a pay scale that includes two additional increments and as a consequence it takes new entrants two additional years to reach the merged salary maximum that they share with colleagues hired at an earlier time.

During negotiations, the unions got the management side to acknowledge the issues of concern in relation to the increased length of the salary scale in respect of post January 2011 entrants.

The proposals establish a 12-month process in which the parties will examine the remaining ‘length of scale’ issues. On conclusion of this work, the parties will discuss and agree how the matter can be addressed and, most significantly, the management side has agreed can be implemented. There is a normal caveat about not giving rise to implications for the fiscal envelope of this Agreement.

IMPACT believes that the solution must involve the removal of two increment points from the scale, creating faster progress up the pay scale. The negotiations will, most likely, focus on which increments.

Most significantly, any outcome will be restricted to parties adhering to this agreement.

Is the pension levy being clawed back through additional pension contributions?

Between 2018 and 2019 the pension levy ceiling will be increased from €28,750 to €34,500 for all staff except those who benefit from ‘fast accrual’ pension arrangements. This will be worth a total of €575 per year. The remainder will remain as an additional pension contribution.

Staff who joined the public service on or after 1st January 2013 will pay a smaller additional contribution. This reflects the fact that their pension benefits are less favourable than staff who joined before that date.

Staff who currently enjoy ‘fast accrual’ pension arrangements (ie, where it takes fewer years’ service to accrue full pension benefits) will pay most, with no adjustment to their existing pension levy contribution.

IMPACT worked to ensure the highest possible threshold for the additional pension benefits. And we also ensured that the value of pensions is unchanged, despite suggestions that future pension years would be calculated on a less-valuable ‘career average’ basis, and that future pension increases should be linked to inflation rather than pay movements.

Going into the talks, the Government was adamant that public servants should pay more towards their pensions. This was on foot of a Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) recommendation, which said pension contributions should increase to reflect the fact that public service pensions are worth more, on average, than those in the private sector. In the event, it wasn’t possible to simply ignore a specific PSPC recommendation.

What about the pensions of retired public servants?

Current pension arrangements are different for public servants who retired before and after the end of February 2012. For this reason, the impact of these proposals also varies depending on whether you retired before or after that date.

Under the proposals, public service pensioners who retired after the end of February 2012 will receive pension increases in line with pay increases of staff currently in the grade from which the retiree retired.

This will result in the gradual alignment of pre and post February 2012 pension provision, for those who retired from posts earning up to €70,000 a year, over the course of the proposed agreement. Once alignment occurs, pensioners will receive pension increases in line with pay increases of staff currently in the grade from which they retired.

Furthermore, discussions are taking place between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, ICTU, and the Alliance of Retired Public Servants with a view to unwinding the remaining levy on pensions currently in payment.

Does it address the mandatory retirement age?

The proposals concede that issues for employees who must retire at 65, now that the state pension is paid at age 66, “need to be addressed as soon as possible,” and says that unions will be consulted over Government proposals on the matter.

Is there any reduction in working time?

There is no general reduction in working hours. However, there is new provision that gives staff the option of a permanent return to ‘pre-Haddington Road’ hours on the basis of a pro-rata pay adjustment. Staff can opt into this arrangement at the beginning of a new deal (January-April 2018) or at the end (January-April 2021).

There is also provision to convert annual leave into flexitime, which could help staff with temporary need for more flexible working arrangements.

Although these two provisions fall far short of the restoration of additional hours, they at least give options to staff for whom time is more important than money. This was the best outcome available in the current talks.

IMPACT wanted a return to pre-2011 hours. However, Minister Paschal Donohoe and his officials were adamant that they would not do a deal that restored working time lost under previous agreements (the so-called ‘Croke Park hours’). Unions repeatedly raised the issue, but the other side would not budge, saying the additional working time was worth a total of over €583 million to €621 million a year – money that would in any case come out of the pay-restoration pot if conceded.

What’s been agreed on outsourcing and agency staffing?

There has been no change to existing outsourcing protections that unions won in the Croke Park and Haddington Road negotiations.

Management wanted to water down existing protections that require management to consult with unions and produce a business plan setting out the case for what it calls ‘external service delivery’ if it wanted to outsource a service or part of a service. Crucially, it can’t cite labour costs (ie, pay) as part of the business plan. They also wanted to amend the rules to allow projects worth €10 million or less to be outsourced without reference to existing protections, or any consultation.

IMPACT and other unions declared this a ‘red line,’ and management eventually withdrew its proposals.

This is a considerable victory as abandoning the ‘labour cost’ provision would mean pretty much every business case would support outsourcing – on the basis of minimum wage and rock-bottom workers’ rights – regardless of the impact on service quality and worker protections. We’ve avoided that in these talks.

On agency staffing, the proposals require management to engage with unions with a view to minimising the use of agency staff as much as possible.

Will I have to work Saturdays if I back these proposals?

No. The proposals allow for reviews of rostering arrangements if service needs or operational needs suggest they might be necessary. But they also acknowledge the need for rosters to ensure ‘predictability of attendance,’ and says no roster changes can be introduced without agreement.

Will my Saturday premium payment disappear if I back these proposals?

No. There will be no change to existing Saturday premium payments.

Are there any changes to overtime payments?

From January 2019, non-pensionable overtime payments would no longer be subject to the pension levy. This would increase the value of overtime payments by around 10%.

Unions called for the full restoration of overtime rates, which were cut during the emergency, but management was not prepared to concede this in the context of other aspects of income restoration.

There is no change to the civil service overtime divisor.

Work-life balance

The proposals commit management to ensure that work-life balance arrangements (including flexible working) are available to the greatest possible extent across the public service. They say disputes of local and sectoral implementation of work-life balance arrangements can be processed through normal disputes resolution processes. And they say management in each sector must monitor progress on gender balance in career progression.

Recruitment and retention issues

UPDATED 19th October 2017

In October 2017, the government approved terms of reference governing the Public Service Pay Commission’s (PSPC) examination of recruitment and retention issues. The commission is now expected to invite submissions from unions representing different grades for whom possible recruitment and retention issues were identified in the PSPC’s original report, starting with doctors and nurses. Unions will be asked to focus on presenting evidence that a recruitment and/or retention problem exists. The process is expected to establish the extent and nature of any recruitment and retention problems and, where they exist, to recommend measures to address them.

The proposals say unions can make submissions to the Public Service Pay Commission on recruitment and retention issues identified in its report. The Commission will then do an analysis of the causes of the problems in each specific area and recommend options to deal with them by the end of 2018. The implementation of the Commission’s recommendations will then be considered by unions and management.

The proposals also commit the parties “to discuss” more open recruitment “where this is appropriate to meet particular organisational needs.”

It also includes safeguards over the use of internships, clinical placements, work experience and job activation measures by saying there must be “agreement on protocols” on cooperation with such programmes.

Starting pay on promotion

The proposals acknowledge barriers to mobility in the public service and contains a commitment to a review of the current arrangements on starting pay and transfer and promotion in the public service.

CORU and other professional registration fees

On IMPACT’s insistence, the proposals would fix CORU and other professional registration fees at their current rate, at least until the expiry of an agreement in December 2020.

Outstanding adjudications

The proposals contain a commitment to a process to deal with outstanding adjudications, “having due regard to their continued validity and cost,” which will conclude by the end of September 2018.

Is there anything on performance management?

The proposals require performance management systems to be introduced in parts of the public service where they aren’t already in place.

If I’m paid weekly, will this change?

No.

Other productivity measures

The proposals say productivity measures set out in the Lansdowne Road agreement will continue to apply and will be updated to reflect various renewal policies, which are named in the text.

Do the proposals ban strikes?

As with all previous public service agreements, industrial action is ruled out in situations where the employer is abiding by the agreement. As usual, the proposals include a binding process for dealing with problems that arise without recourse to industrial action. These restrictions do not extend to matters not covered by the agreement.

Why did the negotiations happen now?

The Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA) is due to expire in September 2018, although there are no further pay adjustments scheduled between now and then. For over a year, IMPACT has been saying pay restoration should be faster than envisaged in the LRA. This is because the economy – and therefore the money available – has recovered faster than envisaged when the deal was done in 2015.

Initially, the Government resisted, but last December it conceded the point when IMPACT ramped up the argument following the publication of Labour Court recommendations on Garda pay. On foot of talks with unions, the Government agreed to (1) bring forward a scheduled 2017 pay adjustment of €1,000 a year from September to April 2017 and (2) to open talks in May on an extension to the LRA.

In bringing the process forward from September 2018 to now, IMPACT and other unions have ensured a significant acceleration of pay restoration.

What would be the duration of a deal?

If accepted in ballot, it would run from 1st January 2018 to 31st December 2020.

This represents faster pay restoration as, prior to this negotiation, the Lansdowne Road agreement was not set to expire until September 2018. Under these proposals, more money will change hands next year.

The duration of a deal ensures that over 90% of public servants (those earning up to around €70,000) will be out of the FEMPI pay cuts by the time an agreement expires, and almost a quarter will be out of the FEMPI pension provisions.

When will I get to vote on the outcome?

IMPACT is now putting ballot arrangements in place, following this week’s meeting of the Consultative Council, which comprises representatives of all the union’s branches and divisions. Following that meeting, IMPACT’s elected Central Executive Committee (CEC) unanimously recommended that  members accept the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020.

The union will start balloting its members in public service and non-commercial semi-state organisations next week. Members will have until 12 noon on Friday 14th July to return their ballot papers, and a union-wide result is expected to be announced the following Monday (17th July).

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