CPSU welcomes announcement of Pay Commission Chair as step on road to full pay and conditions restoration
The CPSU has been to the fore in fighting for pay and conditions restoration. We have argued as late as last week’s budget that all lower income public sector workers (below €50,000) should have an acceleration of their conditions and pay restoration in 2017 and that we must work to find a way to deliver that for our members. The Budget could have at least brought forward Phase 2 of the Lansdowne Road Agreement restoration to the start of the year but didn’t. We must work with all public service unions to drive that agenda including whatever mechanisms are open to us in the LRA to achieve full restoration for lower income earners in the first instance.
In that context we have cautiously welcomed the announcement of the establishment of a Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) to be headed up by the former Chair of the Labour Court, Kevin Duffy.
The Lansdowne Road Agreement provided for the development of a new system of public service pay determination. The agreement committed the Government to discuss with unions a new pay-setting mechanism, which will replace the FEMPI legislation. Achieving this would be to the benefit of workers, Government and the taxpayers who ultimately foot the public service pay bill.
The Lansdowne Road deal delivered the first small recovery in public service incomes in January 2016, with further improvements due in the autumn next year. The total restoration of circa €2,000 for every full-time public servant was a welcome start to the process as such a flat rate approach was more favourable to those on the lowest incomes.
There is a compelling case to accelerate this process as better-than-expected growth and ‘fiscal space’ continues. The Commission will have to consult with unions and employer bodies and it will have to make an initial report on the FEMPI issues in the second quarter of the New Year. This will provide an opportunity for direct negotiations or collective bargaining between unions and Government. In those negotiations unions will be seeking the acceleration of income restoration both under the terms of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and any successor agreement.
We must be careful in how we approach those negotiations. While members will not want to exclude any public service worker from the roll back of FEMPI we must ensure that the process is fair to those in most need. The simple call for the full and immediate repeal of FEMPI will have consequences many of our members will not expect. The full repeal of FEMPI at the end of the LRA would give a worker on €30,000 a total gain of less than €450 a year while someone earning €125,000 would stand to gain almost €20,000. Exiting from the FEMPI legislation is more complex than merely repealing legislation now. A way must be found to provide for pay adjustments and pay floors that secure widespread support across the trade union movement.
Future Pay Comparisons
Following the initial Commission report and consequent negotiations with DPER there is the potential for the Commission to go on to consider future pay comparisons between the public and private sector and the justification for potential further increases. Comparisons by the Commission must be based on a fair assessment of individual public service grades and comparable private sector workers and not “absurd crude averages” of pay across the two sectors and they should take account of the skills, responsibilities or other features of jobs in different sectors. Further the Commission must take proper account of huge changes in public service pensions since 2004. Factors like security of tenure also became far less relevant in the public service during the crisis. Any international comparisons of public service pay must “have due regard” to the cost of living in different countries. The latter is a significant safeguard because Ireland has one of the highest costs of living in the EU.
The CPSU will engage with the Pay Commission to argue the case for our members’ grades. We note that the terms of reference describe remuneration as not only covering basic salary but general terms of employment. In that regard we will be seeking to address the unpaid additional hours which have reduced our hourly rate by approx. 6%. We currently have an Executive Sub Committee preparing for this and we will consult with other Public Service Unions on the potential of making joint submissions for common grades across the Public Service.
Information and Comment – Eoin Ronayne 087 2520603