I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 188 together.
The general position is that arrears of salary, pension and lump sum are due to some retired teachers in accordance with the terms of the PCW agreement. The PCW agreement is a complex one and in order to cope with implementation of its provisions, including paying arrears, my Department has taken on additional staff, both permanent and temporary. My Department's plan to complete the work of paying the arrears by September of this year was based on the required temporary staff being in place in the spring. It was not possible, however, to appoint them until June, following protracted negotiations with staff unions.
Apart from this, the pace of the work has been affected by the fact that normal retirements, which reached a record level in 1997, have continued to occur at the same high level — almost 50 per cent higher than in 1996. The work has also been delayed by the amount of queries which are received on a daily basis regarding the benefits of the PCW agreement and regarding super-annuation generally. The rate of queries received is such that staff are dedicated to answering phone queries between 10 a.m. and 12 noon in the case of secondary teachers and between 2.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. in the case of primary teachers.
With regard to the outstanding arrears, the position is that a dedicated group of staff are working full-time with a view to making payments to as many retired teachers as possible before Christmas. Where it is not possible to complete the work of calculating the amounts due by Christmas, my Department will make payments on account to the retired teachers involved.
The position in the case of the retired teacher referred to by the Deputy is that arrears of salary have been paid and arrears of pension and lump sum are being prepared.