Campaign for Reversal of Reduction in Public Service Pensions
Chair: Paddy Healy, Dublin
Secretary: Cathleen Bowen, Cork
Please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Oireachtas Member,
Pledge by General Election Candidates
“If elected to Dail Eireann, I will propose and support an amendment to the Finance Act, 2011 which would reverse the cut in public service pensions announced in Budget 2011.
I will also vote against any legislative measure which would impose further reductions in public sector pensions”
Please indicate your agreement to the above statement by sending a message on email to our secretary, Cathleen Bowen, at the above address.
The responses will be published on Wednesday, Feb 23
Paddy Healy 086-4183732
From Sean Fallon, Secretary Retired Secondary Teachers Association
Legality of Recent Pension Cuts?
We now know the impact of the budget pension cuts on our fortnightly cheques. Elsewhere in this newsletter there are sample figures showing the extent of the cuts on an annual basis for retirees on pensions ranging from €15,000 per year to €35,000 per year.
While the Government may have a right to increase the tax we have to pay on our pensions and may have a right to impose various levies, it is highly questionable and needs to be legally tested whether it has a right to cut our actual pensions. Three aspects of the pension cuts in particular need to be examined:
• Is there a contract between the retiree and the Government in relation to the size of pension due? When we signed our retirement documents and began receiving pension did that make it a contract and, as such, untouchable?
• Does the fact that our pension was improved in the past, like when pension parity was achieved in the early 1980s really give the Government the right to cut our pension if it chooses to? Retirees were happy with previous pension improvements. Does this not mean that on these occasions rather than breaching contract a new contract was being embraced by all parties, which superseded the old one? Naturally, nobody objected to the improvements. The current change is different in that it is a unilateral negative change by the Government. Is this a breach of contract?
• There is a question of ownership. When we paid our pension contributions, our “deferred salary,” the Government’s role was to hold this money in trust for us until we would retire. Does this make it “our property” and if so does the Government have the right to unilaterally reduce what it pays back or is it in breach of property legislation?
Our situation is different from that which arose in late 2010 in relation to bank bonuses. The money at issue in our case is money we contributed when working, our deferred salary. The money involved in the bank bonus issue may have a different legal status. Indeed, it is worth remembering that there was no court judgement in relation to the bank bonus payment since the bank in question did not contest the issue. The employee was paid the bonus but neither the right to receive it nor the right of the employer to refuse to pay it was established. Furthermore, when “experts” in contract law were interviewed on this issue at the time they were very strongly of the view that it is illegal for an employer to break a contract and the Government could not facilitate a breach of an existing contract. You cannot retrospectively unilaterally change the legal arrangements that applied when a contract was put in place. It is not always necessary, either, for a contract to be made in writing for it to be valid and binding.
It is interesting that our first two payslips since the cuts began to be implemented did not have the gross pension figure reduced. The cut was applied as a deduction, like a levy. Was this because the Government was not confident that it had a legal right to cut our pensions? Whether this is the case or not, and whether the gross figure is changed on future payslips or not, we need to know if the Government is acting illegally by cutting our pensions. The three teacher unions need to get legal advice on the specific matters referred to above and if necessary they need to take a test case to establish what will ultimately be the rights of all members of the unions. Emeritus members of the ASTI, supported by the union, would be ideal people to take such a case.
Legal advice from a non-teaching union, which suggests that if the Government can increase the pension at times it can also reduce it at times, does not provide the answers to the questions above. Clearly, when that legal advice was sought these were not the questions asked but they are the questions that need to be asked and answered. At the time of going to print these questions have not been answered. The three teacher unions had decided to jointly seek legal advice on this matter. Let us hope they do so quickly rather than accepting another union’s advice in response to the wrong question.
Seanad Election can be Used to Fight Cuts in Education and Public Services
The recent budget implemented severe cuts in public services and in the incomes of those on low and middle incomes. Under the humiliating EU/IMF Deal 5 billion euro in the current year and 10 billion by 2013 is being paid in debt servicing to European banks and other investors.
Cuts in education, health and other public services are now in place. Much more are promised in the next 3 budgets.
The Croke Park Deal implements such cuts. Over 2,500 nursing posts have been eliminated. Thousands of posts of responsibility delivering pastoral care are being eliminated in our schools. Lecturing posts are being eliminated reducing the service to third level students. Social workers are so overburdened that vulnerable people are unable to get the supports they need. Thousands of professional research staff are being employed under temporary contracts and dismissed when funding streams end as part of unjustifiable cuts in research funding.Many Post graduates and new graduates are unable to find jobs.
Social Welfare benefits have been cut and taxation on the lower paid and on middle incomes has been steeply increased. Not a penny of taxation has been placed on the assets of the super-rich. There are 450,000 unemployed of which 100,000 are graduates and many have already emigrated.
Public service pensions have now been cut on top of pay cuts and the imposition of the pension levy.
There is an alternative to this.
National Community Platform representing 29 caring bodies has launched a programme of proposals focussed on taxing the assets and incomes of the very rich instead of cutting public services. The programme-4Steps 2 Recovery is available on website http://communityplatform.ie/publications.html
Further valuable material is available from TASC —an independent think-tank dedicated to combating Ireland’s high level of economic inequality and ensuring that public policy has equality at its core. Website http://www.tascnet.ie/showPage.php?ID=1
Government irresponsibly allowed Irish Banks to borrow 90 billion Euro abroad after 2003. Now the very rich must make a major contribution to providing a remedy through increased tax payments on assets and very high incomes
I contested the Seanad election(NUI Panel) on the last occasion with the support of Teachers Union of Ireland(TUI) and Irish Federation of University Teachers and received almost 1500 votes.
Of course, cuts in public services cannot be prevented by the Seanad. But those elected can play an important role as public advocates on behalf of the interest groups they represent.
Senator Joe O’Toole has used his position to promote the Croke Park Deal under which thousands of temporary staff have been dismissed and over 10,000 permanent public service posts have been eliminated causing serious damage to public services.
A strong advocate for public services, for public servants,for employees generally and for the poor is urgently needed.
I will be contesting the Seanad Election on the NUI panel.
It is my intention if elected to use the position to enhance my work in organising public servants, employees generally and the poor to defend themselves against cuts and other oppressive policies. In pursuit of these objectives, I will be advocating increased taxation of the assets and incomes of the super-rich. Further information is available on my Blog above:
Above all a Registration Drive is needed immediately. A Registration Form can be downloaded at
http://www.nui.ie/elections/seanad-register.asp#reg1 Tá leagan gaeilge ar fáil ar an suíomh idirlín freisin.
If you wish to help with this work, please reply to this message or telephone me at 086-4183732
Government Must Tax the Super-Rich!
Letter to Irish Times Published To-day WED OCT 6
• Madam, – Among the taxation proposals being mooted by government for the next and subsequent budgets is an extension of tax to the lower paid. This is to be accompanied by continued draconian reductions in the provision of health, education and other services required by the population generally and particularly by the poor. Government cuts and impositions on the poor and those on middle incomes who spend most of their income in Ireland will flatten the economy and increase the disastrous levels of unemployment and emigration.
Much of the €90 billion irresponsibly borrowed abroad by Irish banks since 2003 is still in the possession of the super-rich.
The borrowings which have bankrupt many developers have been paid to others.
The repayments on these borrowings are now being made by the citizens generally. Surely this money must be restored to the State as a priority?
The only way to recover this money is through an assets tax which is common in several countries (France, Norway, Switzerland) and in several states in the US.
If the €320 billion in assets (Wealth of the Nation Report, 2007) held by the top 5 per cent in 2007 has now shrunk to €250 billion(estimate of UNITE Trade Union), a 2 per cent annual assets tax on the top 5 per cent of asset holders would bring in €5 billion per year.
Raising the tax on the top 6 per cent who earn over €100,000 per annum from 27 per cent to 32 per cent of total salary, would raise a further €1.5 billion per year.
A significant increase in income taxes and assets taxes on the rich is no longer merely desirable in equity, it is a necessity in order to rescue the economy and to protect human services provision.
There is a real economic emergency. Surely the super-rich should make an emergency contribution? How about a little patriotism from them? – Yours, etc,
Fairview, Dublin 3.
Related Material such as recent articles on Education and Public Services by Tom Garvin Jim McKiernan Garret Fitzgerald Michael Cronin can also be viewed
My TWITTER address is paddyhealytui
Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Chair, National Public Services Alliance, Former President TUI