Pensions endangered by Croke Park Proposals- Sean Fallon ASTI
Firstly, word games – and the expression “The Croke Park Deal.” As you know it is not a “Croke Park Deal” at all but rather a “Croke Park Proposal.” It would only be a deal if the parties involved agreed to it. I think that by calling it a Deal the Government and ICTU are trying to give it more credibility than it deserves in the hope of a yes vote that suits their purposes rather than ours.
Secondly, the pension issue – can I draw your attention to another part of the “Proposal” that is very worrying, the second paragraph of Section 1.17 where it says “Discussions will take place on the method of determining pension increases for existing Public Service pensioners and current public servants in the context of the review of pay policy in Spring 2011″ (my emphasis). If the proposal is accepted then the Government can change the method/timing/scale of awarding of pension increases in any way it wants to suit itself. What is particularly worrying about this is that it has been Government policy to force down public service pensions since 1999 when the report prepared by Fitzpatricks and Ernst & Young was adopted as Government policy. The Government has been waiting for this chance, working for this chance, preparing the way for this chance through its media allies having twice been thwarted previously by the A.S.T.I. (once when it wanted supervision and substitution payments to be non-pensionable and once when it wanted benchmarking awards to be non-pensionable but we fought to retain the pensionability despite media villification, ICTU cold-shouldering etc).
Now there is talk of tying pension increases to the Consumer Price Index but there is no limit to what it could do if this proposal is accepted. Let us not forget that it can break any contract and tear up any agreement in the shortsighted (at best) and deceitful (at worst?) name of the “national interest” and get away with it. Let us say that it chooses the C.P.I. to guide it. Is there agreement as to what the C.P.I. actually is. Is it based on or influenced by, among other things, the cost of housing, the cost of a bottle of wine, the cost of cigarrettes, the cost of petrol? Can it be changed after an agreement is made, and if so is the Government likely to do this to pursue its agenda? Are we to offer them this option? Clearly, voting “yes would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.
Thirdly, there is talk of basing the pensions of future public service workers on average lifetime earnings rather than final salary of colleagues who are still serving (at last using the current breach in pension parity to its advantage and our disadvantage). The table below, based on the current salary scale for teachers (available on the ASTI website), is for a sample teacher who serves for 40 years, with a pass H.Dip and an honours Degree and who gets a Special Duties post after 25 years and an Assistant Principal post after 35 years. The table indicates that the change referred to would involve a huge loss for future teachers like this teacher.