Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2015: Report Stage

Amendment No. 1 is out of order.

Amendment No. 1 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 6, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together. I call Deputy Mary Lou McDonald.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, to delete lines 3 to 29.

I am conscious today's debate might be a re-run of the discussion and debate we had at committee.

There is every danger of it.

The stated objective of the winding back of the financial emergency legislation was in the first instance, according to the Minister, to give relief to low and middle income public and civil servants. That was certainly the position the Government, not least the Minister himself, stated and restated at Lansdowne Road. Let it be said on the floor of the House that, as I have acknowledged at committee, it is true to say those on smaller incomes, and some on very low incomes, in the civil and public service will get a level of relief from this legislation - of that there is no doubt. It is not going to be transformative for those workers but, nonetheless, I know that is their view, and I have great sympathy for that view and for the unions that, after an annual diet of cutbacks and loss of income, consider that any alleviation is to be welcomed. I want to state that at the outset.

However, when we take Lansdowne Road and Haddington Road together, and look at this legislation, what we discover is that, in fact, it is at the higher end of earnings that full pay restoration is envisaged. The legislation sets out in respect of income over €65,000 up to a benchmark of €110,000 a two-stage full reinstatement, and then, for income in excess of €110,000, a three-stage full reinstatement is envisaged. I made the point to the Minister at committee, and I want to make it again, that in terms of equity and of delivering maximum relief, it is my view that his efforts should have been totally focused on those in the lower income bracket. It is ironic, given the Minister's stated position that this was all about relief for people on €65,000 and less, and all about those on low and middle incomes, that the only place complete income restoration is envisaged and set out stage by stage is for those portions of income above €65,000 and, indeed, above €110,000. My amendment seeks to remedy that situation.

I have also had an even longer-running conversation with the Minister in respect of pay generally within the public and civil service. We know that only a tiny proportion of civil and public servants earn in excess of €100,000 or €110,000. The Minister will know that, in the lifetime of this Dáil, I have debated with him the need for pay and pension restraint in the upper echelons. I am afraid we have not had a meeting of minds on that issue and, in the dying months of this Dáil, I do not imagine that is going to happen. The Minister rejected this amendment on Committee Stage and I imagine that is the course of action he will take here today, unless we are in for a real shocker. However, the reason I resubmitted this amendment and the other amendments is to place on record on the floor of the Dáil what I see as a more favoured position being afforded to higher portions of income. The question that arises is how it is that, in a staged way, full restoration of pay and conditions, in all of their aspects, is not similarly set out for people on lower income.

As the Minister knows, amendment No. 3 sets out that nothing in the section would provide for increases in the salaries of Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas or Ministers of the Government.

On Committee Stage, the Minister stated that current Ministers would voluntarily forgo any portion of income returned to them. However, it should be noted that is a voluntary action, not set out in the legislation. I believe that is a mistake. Given that Members of the Oireachtas, particularly members of Government, have brought in emergency legislation that has introduced all kinds of cuts and hardship that have been felt deeply by people on the ground, it is only appropriate that Members of the Oireachtas, particularly Ministers, lead from the front in respect of the recovery.

Amendment No. 4 states that "Notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, nothing in this section shall provide for increases in the salaries of public servants in receipt of salaries in excess of €100,000". I have already spoken on this matter in respect of amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 5 provides that: "nothing in this section shall provide for decreases in the pensions related deduction of members of the Houses of the Oireachtas or Ministers of the Government". Just as there should not be a payback or any kind of pay bonanza for Ministers, this should equally apply to their pensions.

Amendment No. 6 focuses specifically on former Members or Ministers. Rightly, there has been much public concern and disquiet in this regard, particularly in respect of the bonanza pensions former Ministers and politicians are in receipt of. It is not lost on people that some of these individuals were at the helm when all of the bad decisions and bad governance that led to the economic crash occurred. It is not just my view but a view widely held that it is ironic, if not obscene, that those same individuals sailed off into the sunset with pensions that could not be in any way justified in the real world. This legislation should not be about returning pension income to those people who are and have been over-pensioned.

I seek clarification on one issue. The Minister will be aware I submitted a parliamentary question to him which was responded to yesterday. My question asked the Minister what was the percentage reduction in the annualised amount of the public service pension for Ministers who will retire on a full combined ministerial and Oireachtas pension in 2016 and if he would make a statement on the matter. This followed on our debate on Committee Stage.

I wish to know whether my interpretation of the answer the Minister gave is correct. He said that many Ministers would not have the full ten years' Cabinet service or the full 20 years' Oireachtas service. I am sure some will. He went on to say:

Subject to that caveat, and assuming enactment of the 2015 Bill, in the event that a full-service Cabinet Minister were to retire in 2016, the annualised amount of public service pension then payable to him or her would be reduced, on account of PSPR, by €2,536, or 2.75%, to €89,762 in 2016 following application of the relevant PSPR table, as set out in the 2015 Bill.

The Minister is saying therefore that a serving Minister who retires in 2016 on a full ministerial Oireachtas pension will be on a pension of €89,762. However, he went on to say:

It should be noted that the pension awarded to such a 2016 retiree [we are talking about Members of the Government who will retire next year] would be based on the pay rates in place just before the public service pay adjustments of July 2013 under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013.

Am I correct on this? In 2013 we had the Haddington Road agreement and that agreement included reductions in pay for people in the public service on salaries of over €65,000. This included Ministers and Oireachtas Members. Am I correct that under the Lansdowne Road agreement and this legislation, this provision will be reversed in a couple of stages? The essence of the point made by Deputy McDonald is that this means there are now pay improvements for people on salaries of over €65,000, all because the Haddington Road agreement contained a sunset clause.

It allowed for a grace period.

I am not talking about the previous Croke Park agreement. In the Haddington Road agreement, the agreement in which the Minister was involved, there was an expiry date or sunset clause in regard to the cuts made on the salaries of over €65,000.

The grace period related to the pension.

Yes, and that could continue or be reversed under a new agreement. It lasted as long as the Haddington Road agreement and now we are starting to reverse that. Perhaps the Minister can explain this point. The Minister said it should be noted that the pension awarded to Ministers who are retiring in 2016 would be based on the pay rates in place just before the public service pay adjustments of July 2013. Are the pay rates in place now lower than those that were in effect prior to July 2013? Is the public service pension reduction, PSPR, on a higher or lower figure than what it was before the Haddington Road agreement?

On amendments Nos. 2 to 6, inclusive, in the name of Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, amendment No. 2 would, simpliciter, prevent the pay cuts being restored to any public servant earning more than €65,000. The following amendment is a tautology and redundant, because if the cut is not being restored to anybody on over €65,000 it will not be paid to anybody on a salary of over €100,000. That person is obviously captured by the amendment that provides there would be no pay restoration for anybody on over €65,000.

Sinn Féin's position is that not a cent will be restored to anybody on a salary above €65,000, although proportionately these are the people who contributed most to the rebalancing in the crisis. Uniquely, they were subject to three pay cuts. People on salaries below €65,000 were subject to two pay cuts. Notwithstanding these people were hit for a third time, the amendment provides that they are not to get a cent more under Sinn Féin's proposals. Who are we talking about in this regard? We are talking about principals and deputy principals in primary schools, about directors of nursing in our hospitals, anybody above the rank of superintendent in An Garda Síochána and a range of other people, including every doctor in our hospitals, notwithstanding we made significant reductions in their pay. According to the ESRI report, only two countries made more significant reductions in pay during the crisis than we did.

Sinn Féin's position is that nobody on a salary of over €65,000 should get a cent back. Therefore, the whole concept of this legislation providing for an emergency situation is lost on Deputy McDonald. This legislation cannot exist outside of an emergency. We have no basis to cut people's pay other than there being an emergency.

The whole idea of opening negotiations with the public sector unions this year was to ensure we had an orderly unwinding of FEMPI. I can be absolutely certain that if I accepted the course of action recommended by Sinn Féin, many people who are in receipt of remuneration in excess of €65,000 in the public service, some of whom are nurse managers, doctors, administrators, principals or deputy principals in primary or secondary schools, or their union on their behalf, would take legal action and this entire edifice would collapse at a cost, as I explained on Committee Stage, of €2.3 billion. I opened discussions with the public sector unions and we negotiated an agreement which is now being endorsed by the public sector committee of Congress and supported by the majority of public servants. I want to be very clear, the legislation is intended to give effect to a negotiated agreement, the Lansdowne Road agreement.

Amendments such as those we are discussing which seek to alter the terms would be in breach of that negotiated, agreed and voted upon agreement. I am not prepared to break my word and the word of this Government on a solemn agreement reached through collective discussions and negotiations with the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. I do not know whether the Deputy opposite has no regard for the public sector committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions but if I sit down and negotiate a position and ask them to vote on it and if they bring their members along and explain it and carry it we are obligated to deliver on it. As I have said, specifically amendment No. 2 would delete the provision to give me any capacity to increase the salaries of public servants on salaries above €65,000.

Apart from the commitments given in the Haddington Road and Lansdowne Road agreements, it is important that the public service is able to compete for talent. We have had this discussion. The notion that nobody in the public service, in essence, should earn more than €65,000 - it used to be €100,000 but now it seems to be a new figure that the Deputy has invented - means that we will not have quality public services. We have had debates on other matters but I believe as a trade unionist all my life, and my family and my father before me, there is a suitable and an appropriate rate for the job and the notion that we can arbitrarily cut people's salaries outside the context of an emergency is quite wrong. We need to negotiate these issues with the representatives of our workers and we need to deliver on what is negotiated.

The Haddington Road agreement negotiated pay cuts. They were progressive from 5.5% to 10% with increasing remuneration bands for those who were in receipt of in excess of €65,000. I made the decision as a Minister and I imposed no pay cut in my time on anybody below €65,000. I thought that was a reasonable and fair position to adopt. I want to ensure that restoration happens. There are a couple of continuing inaccuracies which I would like to correct. I thought I had corrected this on Committee Stage. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald has said that the only people who are getting full restoration are people in receipt of more than €65,000, and others are not. That is not the case. The full restoration applies only to the third round of cuts - that is what is profiled - which only applied to those over €65,000 but that element of their pay that is below €65,000 is treated exactly as for everybody else. That is something we need to be clear about.

In relation to Deputy Sean Fleming's point and the parliamentary question response of yesterday. In each of the agreements we have had to date, when we cut people's pay from the very beginning of the FEMPI legislation, there is what we call a grace period. In other words, people who retired during the grace period, although their actual pay had been reduced by FEMPI, their pension was calculated on the pre-cut level. That is the way it was negotiated. That was negotiated as part of the Lansdowne Road agreement which was concluded in May 2015. Section 5(4) of the agreement states that the Government has indicated that it intends to provide in the legislation for a grace period consistent with the terms of this agreement during which both the reduction in pay and any deferred increment, the progression provided for under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act will be disregarded. The grace period has been a continuing and enduring element of the FEMPI legislation. There was much lobbying from all trade unions to ensure that grace period. Of course, everybody benefits equally from it. In relation to the pay side, the grace period or any other aspect of it, I have not disregarded anybody's individual rights because I have said that part of the structure and architecture of FEMPI is that it has broad and uniform application and it does not single out individuals for unique treatment.

The effect of the grace period was to allow pension benefits to be calculated on the rates of pay in effect before 1 July 2013 in this case. Pensions and equivalent PSPR contributions will be based on the earlier pay rates. That has been an essential element of the structure of FEMPI from the very beginning. I hope that answers the Deputies' questions.

In regard to the issue of Members of the Oireachtas or office holders, I have been clear from the beginning in answering questions. I know there might be some political capital in saying that Deputies or Senators should not get anything back. I do not believe that we should disaggregate Deputies or Senators from the generality of pay. They are in a pay slot analogous to principal officers in the public service and they should not be disaggregated from that. They should get the restoration on the same basis as everybody else, not slower and not quicker than anybody else. If one was to go down the road of making a unique set of circumstances for Members of the Oireachtas there would be pressure never to give an increase. We would get back to the situation where only those who are privately wealthy would be Members or, of course, the miraculous situation of Sinn Féin Members who all live on the average industrial wage but with an extraordinary lifestyle. I do not know how they manage it. Perhaps they should give lectures on it. It is an area into which I will not go.

We also need to construct the architecture of FEMPI in the broad way I have described in order for it to be robust against constitutional challenge. We cannot start to pick individual categories of workers and say they must be treated separately and uniquely. One might say nobody is going to challenge it from the Oireachtas: maybe so. The legal advice we have is that the criterion for the maintenance of FEMPI is, first, to argue always that the emergency continues to exist and we need to be able to commence the course that this is an orderly wind down over time, consistent with the orderly removal of the recession and the pressures on the Exchequer; second, that the provisions have general application and are not confined to one narrow category of individual; and third that the measures actually make a contribution to national recovery. I think the Deputy is right, those of us who have been at the helm during this most difficult journey for the State from complete crisis when we came into government in 2011 to the path of recovery and have asked the people of Ireland to come with us on this dangerous path should give an example. The Government at its first meeting, when I presented the Lansdowne Road agreement to it, specifically determined that the members of the Government, our political advisers and the Ministers of State who hold office in this Government will not avail of any of the restoration set out in this legislation.

The Minister has just said that the legislation and these proposals cannot exist outside of an emergency. That is something that needs to be scrutinised because the Government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth on this issue.

We have an emergency when it comes to this legislation, but there is no emergency when it comes to all of the other pronouncements made by various Ministers. In an opinion piece on 29 October in The Irish Times the Tánaiste wrote that "while the emergency is over, though, the need for reform is not". However, reform is quite different from an emergency. On 13 October the Minister for Finance said:

The forecast deficit for 2015 of 2.1% is well ahead of our original target of 2.7% and our excessive deficit requirement of less than 3% of gross domestic product, GDP. Consequently, we will exit the corrective arm of the Stability and Growth Pact and move into the preventive arm of the pact.

The fiscal deficit is, therefore, now below what is required under the fiscal compact. The Minister went on to say, "The economy has been transformed. It is growing strongly across all sectors and, most importantly, sustaining and creating jobs." He said:

The Department of Finance is forecasting growth of 4.3% in 2016 taking account of the figures endorsed by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and the full impact of today's overall budget package. Economic growth is expected to average around 3% per annum thereafter.

He also said Ireland's debt would fall to just under 93% of GDP by the end of 2016, just below the European average. The Government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth on the question of there being an emergency. Because of this I can see a constitutional difficulty with this legislation.

In respect of the pension provisions, including on the withholding of pensions, included in the legislation, not restoring full pensions from 1 January 2016 is unconstitutional. As we know, pensions are seen as private property under the Constitution and this has been accepted by the courts. The retention by the State of €95 million in pension payments out of a figure of €125 million is unconstitutional. This issue needs to be addressed urgently.

On the withholding of payments to trade union members who voted democratically to continue the previous agreement which had not been completed, teachers and gardaí simply want a commitment that the details of the previous agreement will be maintained and honoured. My view is that the provisions included in the Bill on the withholding of payments from these trade union members constitute an anti-trade union position, one that has, unfortunately, been adopted by the Labour Party. There are significant difficulties with the legislation from both a constitutional and anti-trade union perspective.

I thought I had set out my position very clearly, but I will rehearse it for the Minister because clearly he has misunderstood what I am saying. I am taking him on his word about the orderly unwinding of the FEMPI legislation. It was all about those earning under €65,000. He is on record countless times as saying this is what it is all about. The legislation is introduced and we discover that for those earning under €65,000, income will be partially restored, while for those on incomes over €65,000 and €110,000, it will be fully restored, in two steps in the first instance and three in the case of those on incomes over €110,000. I could not have been more clear in saying this to the Minister. The portions of income that will be fully restored are for those on high incomes, not those on incomes under €65,000. That is my problem with the legislation. I was taking the Minister on his word that the focus would be on workers on incomes under €65,000. That was the palaver at the time the Lansdowne Road agreement was implemented. It is only when one looks at the legislation and the Lansdowne Road and Haddington Road agreements that one sees the full dynamic picture of what is happening in respect of public pay. I have told the Minister that this is the wrong way to go about it. I have not made the argument that no one should earn one cent above €65,000; therefore, the Minister should not put those words in my mouth.

That is the import of the amendments.

The argument I have consistently made which the Minister might hear if he unblocked his ears is that this legislation and his efforts ought to be about restoring income for those under the €65,000 threshold. From talking to people who work in the Civil Service and the public service and some of their unions, I know that this is what they understood this was about initially. That is the rationale for my amendments - that one starts at the beginning and restores income for those under the €65,000 threshold. That would be an equitable and fair way to proceed. We should ignore the Minister's carry-on about solemn agreements iterated with all the solemnity he could muster; if he was true to his word and the position he had staked out initially, that is what the legislation would do.

The contradiction in the Minister's answer to me concerns Members of the Oireachtas. He says I am wrong-headed in seeking an exception for Members of the Oireachtas and members of the Government, but he himself has conceded the point in telling us that Ministers, including Ministers of State, will voluntarily forgo the moneys to be restored to them. It seems he has acknowledged the exception for Members of the Oireachtas but particularly members of the Government, but he is not prepared to insert it in the emergency legislation. That is wrong. Those in government who visited austerity on the population at large on a grand scale should not benefit from this legislation and I make no apology for saying this straight up. The Minister did not address the issue of former Members of the Oireachtas and former taoisigh, tánaistí and Ministers, many of whom are in receipt of eye-watering and indefensible pensions and some of whom were the authors of the wrecking of the economy and the ensuing emergency. I do not believe in any set of circumstances that they should have their lost pension income restored to them. That is the wrong thing to do.

On the Minister's general approach, I know full well that he will not accept my amendments, but it is important that these matters be stated. I will finish by saying to the Acting Chairman that, with all due respect, we are dealing with a group of my amendments.

With all due respect to the Deputy, she is well over time.

I may be, but I will finish what I want to say.

The Deputy must do so in accordance with the rules.

There has been a difference of view about whether or not there is an emergency. I am in no doubt there is still an emergency and it is felt in households across the land. They are in no doubt that it is still an emergency to get the rent together, pay the mortgage, put a coat on the child’s back or get schoolbooks. That is the stuff of emergency. In that light, the intention of the amendments was to place the focus where it properly belongs, on workers and incomes under the threshold of €65,000 and to make sure that people elected here, who should lead by example, members of the Government who are the most recent authors of austerity and past officeholders who brought about the calamity in the first instance, should certainly not be the beneficiaries of the Minister’s orderly unwinding of the financial emergency measures in the public interest.

Will the Minister explain why, when this legislation is completed, one retired public servant with a gross pension of €60,000 will have a public service pension reduction, PSPR, of €1,320 and a pension in payment, subject to the usual taxes, of €58,680, while another retired public servant on the exact same pension will have a PSPR of €5,280? The second person will receive a pension in payment of €54,720. According to the Minister's reply to my question yesterday, the figures go very high, above the salary rates we receive. Taking two people on a pension of €70,000, one will pay a PSPR of €6,980 and the other will pay PSPR of €1,820, all because they retired on different dates. Some will have retired before 29 February 2012, others subsequently.

I know the Minister will justify his answer by saying that before they retired, they were on different gross pay rates. People find it hard to understand how two public servants on the same pension may retire within a day of one another but the difference in their PSPR is €4,000. The Minister may link it to their salary but those people could live for another 30 or 40 years, if God spares them, and one will be more severely disadvantaged than the other. There should be a simple approach. The Minister said he has the principles of a trade unionist and spoke at length of a rate for the job. There is such a thing as a rate for retirement as well. If two people get €60,000 on retirement, they should pay the same rate of PSPR.

Deputy Fleming’s question is difficult for people to understand and it goes back to my point about the grace period. The pension will be calculated on the basis of the date of retirement. It will be the rate of pay that pertained during the grace period of the person’s retirement. That changed with each new FEMPI Act. The actual reduction in people’s pensions will end one day when the emergency is over but the calculation of the pension will not end. The people the Deputy mentions, who are paying a bigger PSPR on a higher calculated pension, will receive that higher calculated pension to the day they die. The pensions of the others, including every member of the Government when we retire, will be calculated on a reduced rate because they will be calculated on the rate of pay that pertained in 2013, which was considerably less than the rate of pay pertaining to our predecessors in government. Many retired at the last election with much better salaries. That filters down to everybody. The calculation is based on the actual date a person retired and is linked to the rate of pay captured in the grace period of the time. It would be shown more clearly in a table.

In response to Deputy McDonald, the import of her first amendment is that no public servant with an income above €65,000 would have a cent restored. She can dress it up and argue it and put words in someone's mouth as she talks about it but that would be the impact should I accept the amendment. Not only is that wrong but it would not sustain a constitutional challenge because when we emerge from this emergency, we cannot arbitrarily hold on to a cap on some people’s salary because she determines it so. In essence, Deputy McDonald and Sinn Féin are saying that deputy principals or principals of primary and secondary schools, directors of nursing, senior gardaí, senior workers in local government or a whole range of other people should not get a cent back.

I have tried several times to explain but will try again, because I have sent the Deputy the table, the impact of the Lansdowne Road agreement. The restoration over three years, 2016 to 2018, will pre-eminently impact low-paid workers. Someone on €20,000 will get €1,625 back, or 8.1% of that salary. Someone at the top of the public sector pay scale, earning €185,000 will get back €1,000, or half of 1% of that salary. I will not quibble about the point that the Deputy is conflating the Lansdowne Road and Haddington Road agreements.

They are both in the legislation.

We have already negotiated, signed off and debated the Haddington Road agreement. Is the Deputy suggesting ex post facto years later, having implemented it in full and having asked workers to implement it, that we should renege on it?

It does not make sense. It would be a breach of trust with the people with whom we negotiated and it is set out in black and white in the Haddington Road agreement. It was years ago. People did not have any issues with it until now, when we start to implement it as we emerge from the crisis.

The final point in Deputy McDonald's contribution is that we should legislate to uniquely exclude from any pay rise Members of the Oireachtas and officeholders. That runs counter to the structure and architecture of the financial emergency measures in the public interest legislation, which cannot single out one cluster of workers for special attention. That is why I am saying the Government will voluntarily exclude itself but I do not ask Members of the Oireachtas, Deputies or Senators to exclude themselves. They are linked to principal officers in the public service and that is the determination. As they enjoy pay restoration, so should Members of the Oireachtas. That is my view on it and it is the view of many Members of the Oireachtas. They might not be rushing into the House to support me today but I believe many people will be of that view.

I want to deal with Deputy Healy's general point, which I understand is that the emergency is over, give everything back.

That is what the Minister is saying.

No. I presume that is what the Deputy is saying, unless he is mouthing-----

The Tánaiste said it.

-----the argument to no avail or for the sake of coming in here and saying that some people are saying the emergency is over and, therefore, it must be over. What is the point if he does not agree with that point of view? The Preamble to the Bill sets it out in fairly clear terms. It states, "WHEREAS economic growth has resumed and the State’s international competitiveness has improved and a significant improvement in the fiscal circumstances of the State has occurred;". All of that is acknowledged in terms of what the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance and I have said. It goes on to state, "AND WHEREAS it remains necessary to retain firm control of current Exchequer expenditure so as to ensure ongoing access to international funding and improve competitiveness, while taking into account the continuing risks to the public finances which remain, and the need to meet the State’s commitments to have a prudent fiscal policy under the Stability and Growth Pact and the Fiscal Compact;". It then sets out the provisions of this Bill.

Pay and pensions are private property under the law and under the determinations of the court. That is why we can only interfere with it in exceptional circumstances where there is a real and demonstrable emergency. I do not think anybody would argue that we have not endured that as a nation over the past number of years. We are not out of the woods yet. We have made enormous progress, as the Tánaiste indicated to the House in the debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill. Thankfully, we do not have the 15.2% unemployment rate we had shortly after this Government came into office and we are now almost back to having 2 million people in work, which is fantastic, but we have a way to go. We still have 8.9% of the population unemployed and we need to get them back into work. We need to undo the FEMPI legislation in a structured and orderly way. I did not invent the structure of it. I negotiated the structure of it with the trade union movement and asked it to endorse it, and the public sector congress of trade unions have endorsed the proposals I am asking the Oireachtas to support today.

On Deputy Healy's final point that we are withholding something from any worker, there is no decision to withhold anything from anybody in the legislation before us. I hope that everybody will embrace the Lansdowne Road agreement and enjoy the full benefits, as every worker should, from this legislation.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald has the right to reply.

Is the Acting Chairman asking me if I am pressing the amendment?

Yes. How stands the amendment?

I am pressing the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 6, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

“(5) Notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, nothing in this section shall provide for increases in the salaries of members of the Houses of the Oireachtas or Ministers of the Government.”.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 6, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

“(5) Notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, nothing in this section shall provide for increases in the salaries of public servants in receipt of salaries in excess of €100,000 before the coming into effect of this section.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 9, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

“(7) Notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, nothing in this section shall provide for decreases in the pensions related deduction of members of the Houses of the Oireachtas or Ministers of the Government.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 12, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

“(8) Notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, nothing in this section shall provide for a reduction in Public Service Pension Reduction of former members of the Houses of the Oireachtas or Ministers of the Government.”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 32; Níl, 93.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Browne, John.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Mary Lou McDonald and Aengus Ó Snodaigh; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 7 in the name of Deputy Clare Daly is out of order.

Amendment No. 7 not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 13, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“Report on public service pensions

8. The Minister shall, within one month of the passing of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2015, prepare a report on the number of people whose annualised amount of public service pension exceeds €34,132.”.

On Committee Stage we discussed the matter of people over various rates of pension, for example, €34,132. What we find under the legislation is that people with a pension of that amount would have full restoration of their public service pension reduction during the lifetime of the agreement but people over that rate would not achieve a full restoration. The amount of €34,132 possibly equates to people who were on salaries of approximately €65,000, which was a benchmark figure in the Haddington Road agreement.

I tabled an amendment on the issue on Committee Stage and it was ruled out of order as a possible charge on the Exchequer. I have now approached the matter in a different way because the Retired Civil and Public Servants Association, which the Minister said he did meet, is still not happy that a number of its members will be excluded from the improved position for those who are in receipt of a pension of less than €34,132. The association also said there is another problem given the age group of the cohort in question. The people are retired public servants and they are being asked to wait for a number of years to get the benefits that will accrue to their pension above the figure of €34,132. Nothing in the agreement for the next three years will allow those on pensions above that figure to have the same benefit as people whose pension is below that figure.

We discussed the current situation on Committee Stage. I believe what the Minister said at the time. He was sincere in what he said and I was happy with the tone of his response at the time. However, as the agreement runs until 2018, the legislation as it stands specifies that the matter can be re-examined in three years’ time for people on pensions of more than €34,132. That is no good to elderly people who are in their 70s or 80s at this stage, who are being told that portion of their pension will be looked at in three years’ time to see whether an improvement could be made at that stage. The Minister has made the position clear in the course of the detailed debate, which follows on from Deputy Healy’s comment earlier on which we had a debate of one hour on Committee Stage. He is essentially saying the emergency will continue for a number of years into the future because the Government will not be able to restore everything in one fell swoop.

We will not be able to find €2.1 billion.

Until such time as the Government is able to restore everything it wants to maintain what I refer to as the fig leaf of the emergency legislation. I do not believe there is a requirement for that. Moments ago, I listened to the Minister’s party leader speak immediately before the debate and she was extolling the billions the Government is spending on schools. The Government said it has built more schools than we even did in the best of times.

Nobody could reconcile what was said at the end of the previous debate with the concept of being in a financial emergency. The amendment specifically seeks that within one month of the passing of the legislation a report would be prepared on the number of people whose annualised amount of public service pension exceeds €34,132. In the intervening week I took advantage of the opportunity to table a parliamentary question to the Minister.

That was clever.

I received a response to the question last night. In a way, I do not have to wait a month for the report because I have the gist of it in the reply to my parliamentary question last night. Public servants will be interested in the figures as there have only been estimates of figures previously. It was said that 65,000 people would benefit from the measure. I still ask the Minister that a report be prepared in order to provide further detail than the half-page table I received last night, although the table provided a response to the question I asked in the short parliamentary question. The Minister said there are 16,800 pensioners in the pension band €34,132 to €40,000, and between €40,000 and €50,000 there are 10,100 people. The gist of my amendment on Committee Stage was to extend the benefits accruing to those in receipt of a pension of up to €34,132 to those in receipt of a pension up to €50,000. We now know that would involve 26,900 public servants who are in receipt of a pension.

If I tie in the amendment with the Committee Stage debate, my party seeks that those 26,900 public service pensioners who are in receipt of a pension of less than €50,000 – it is not a massive figure but it is a substantial and generous figure – would be exempt from the public service pension reduction in line with everybody else in receipt of a pension of less than €34,132, as provided for in the legislation. We are now talking about a large but specific group of people who were in relatively senior positions but not in the highest echelons in the public service. Some people in the Retired Civil and Public Servants Association would have liked me to go even further and to increase the pension threshold above €50,000. A total of 3,100 are in the category of being in receipt of a pension of between €50,000 and €60,000. A total of 800 people are in the category of pension between €60,000 and €70,000. A total of 700 are in the category between €70,000 and €80,000. A total of 300 are in the category between €80,000 and €90,000. A total of 200 pensioners are in the category of pensions between €90,000 and €100,000. I am shocked and surprised to see there are 500 public service pensioners on pensions of more than €100,000. I am not here to fight the case for anybody on a pension of more than €100,000 and I do not think anybody in the House would fight that case. That is the type of money people can only dream about. It is equivalent to winning the lottery for many people to be on a pension of €100,000. If one is on a pension of more than €100,000, €90,000, €80,000, €70,000 or €60,000, one is not doing too badly at all and I am not here to fight one’s case, but I am here to fight the case for people whose pensions are below €50,000, namely, 26,900 people.

The Minister understands where I am coming from in this regard. The amendment is very simple. It just asks the Minister to produce a report on the numbers involved who are in receipt of pensions over €34,132. I have made my point clearly. If the Minister produces a report within a month of the legislation passing – I have given him a reasonable amount of time to do that – I hope it will be a detailed and comprehensive report on which the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform could have a detailed discussion. It is important to provide the public with such information because those people were not represented at the Haddington Road talks and they were not represented at the Lansdowne Road talks. It would be an opportunity, especially for the group of 27,900 people to have their case made, as they have a legitimate case. Another 5,000 people are on much higher pensions. More luck to them that they are on those pensions. People here want to reduce the pensions reductions of some of those people but I am not in the business of fighting their case in that regard.

The Minister made an interesting point on Committee Stage, to which I responded that I was happy with the tone of what he said. Just because we are passing the legislation today does not preclude the possibility of some of this being looked at next year. I was pleased to say that and I teased out the issue with the Minister.

It would involve further amendment to the FEMPI legislation in 2016, were Members so minded to do this in the Estimates for future years.

I put on record my hope that in 2016, regardless of whosoever is on whatever side of the House, Members will revisit this matter outside the Lansdowne Road agreement because I reiterate these people were not involved in those negotiations or did not have a vote and were excluded unfairly but they definitely were affected by the agreement. Consequently, I ask the Minister to prepare this report to enable Members to have an informed debate in this Chamber in 2016 on the aforementioned pensioners, with a view to making some improvement to their position in 2016 in the knowledge that will require a further amendment to the FEMPI legislation to so do. I seek the report in order that Members can state their case here in the Chamber.

As I indicated on Committee Stage, I have great sympathy for the point made by the Deputy. It always has been the structure of public service pay negotiations that representatives of the pensioners are not involved formally. While this always has been the way, going back as long as one cares to look, I was concerned there was an impact on pensioners to which one should listen. This is why, on meeting the various disparate groups at the beginning of this process, I suggested to them they should co-ordinate and have a single overarching pensioner representative committee. In fairness to them, they did just that and I told them that if they did so, I would meet them, which I did. As my officials kept in touch with them throughout the Lansdowne Road discussions, they were involved.

As for pension reduction, it was determined in the Haddington Road process as appropriate and just that were pay to be cut for those on €65,000, the analogous pension rate, which was €32,500, also would make a small contribution to the financial emergency because that relates to a pay rate of €65,000 and above. Obviously, this was done on a sliding scale, whereby very highly-paid pensioners were asked to pay proportionately much more. At the top level of the additional pension contribution I required from high-paid pensioners, I went as far as the constitutional advice I had would allow me, because one must be careful not to expropriate a property right, in order that they were making a proportionate contribution in the national interest to an emergency and its resolution. This was the architecture on which the Government determined. When it came to the Lansdowne Road agreement and pay restitution, I thought equally that the pension restitution mechanism should mirror the pay restitution mechanism. As some pensioners were concerned they would not get a look-in at such a resolution, I made it clear they also would get pension restitution.

To deal with the specific amendment before Members, the Deputy seeks a formal report. I do not believe that should be written into legislation but I am happy to give information to the Deputy. As the Deputy has readily acknowledged, I gave the information he has requested in a response to a parliamentary question yesterday. Consequently, he does not need legislation to acquire such information as a simple parliamentary question or a telephone call would have prompted me to give the information to him. As the Deputy will recall in the aforementioned reply - he has put it on the record - based on the data available there are approximately 32,500 public service pensions in payment that exceed the €34,132 threshold. I thought it serendipitous that the actual number of pensioners is 32,500, which in my mind was the rate that was half the €65,000 pay threshold. It is interesting to note that in percentage terms, this is approximately 20% of all public service pensions. In essence, my point is the restoration that will happen over the next three years will be full restoration for 80% of all pensioners, that is, 80% of all pensioners will get full pension restoration during the course of the next three years.

I do not wish to be macabre or maudlin about it but am mindful that, as the pensioner representatives made clear to me, their urgency might be greater than someone who is working, in terms of what one might call their horizon of existence. It was for this reason that I indicated during the Committee Stage debate that while this legislation was negotiated during 2015, when the Lansdowne Road agreement was finalised in May, circumstances were not as good as they are now. Please God and with a steady hand on the tiller for the next year or so, matters will improve again next year and I am minded, having regard to the strong case made by the Deputy and the case made by the pensioner representatives, that if the opportunity arises, the Government might look again at the pension case for the balance of pensioners. However, I should make the point to the Deputy that when it comes to full pension restoration to that category at the very top, there will be difficult decisions to be made by whoever is at the tiller at that stage, because I do not believe there is a clamour, political or otherwise, for pension restoration for those in receipt of what in the cold light of day look like extraordinarily high pensions. I am happy to provide the Deputy with any information he needs but it is not necessary and I certainly am not minded to put that into legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 9 is out of order.

Amendment No. 9 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 14, lines 4 and 5, to delete “in a collective agreement” and substitute “in collective agreements”.

Members had a brief exchange on this matter on Committee Stage and I seek reassurance that this legislation will not render null and void other agreements outside of the Lansdowne Road agreement. There was some discussion on Committee Stage on the striking of different sectoral arrangements between different categories of workers in bilateral arrangements and agreements. I seek reassurance, as do the aforementioned workers, that all of that still holds and the Minister might say a few words on that matter.

As I have the floor, I also ask the Minister to address the provision in the legislation, I believe it is at section 4, the language of which appears to me to be targeted specifically at those who the legislation deems to be outside the collective agreement. This provision envisages penalties for those workers, that is, those who did not vote for the agreement. When the Minister responds, I ask him to say some words on that matter also.

First, I will deal with the specific points made by the Deputy. For people who have not been involved in discussions on public sector pay, it is an extraordinarily complicated set of negotiations because one has so many unions and so many different agreements. Obviously, one must take a sectoral approach and such an approach has been taken with the key people from, for example, health in discussions with health representatives, be it from the Services Industrial, Professional and Technical Union, SIPTU, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, or others and likewise across each sector, including local government, the Civil Service, education and so on. There is a central co-ordination in all these discussions and needless to add, a lot of people are sitting around for a very long time who are not directly involved, in any given moment, in the overarching discussions. As I stated on Committee Stage, when one has senior representatives of both management and the workers in trade unions, it would be unusual if they did not take the opportunity to have bilateral discussions on outstanding or long-standing issues and that has happened. These bilateral discussions and agreements are not part of the overarching agreement and never in the past have been part of an overarching agreement.

The people who engaged in the bilateral discussions, in respect of which they reached an agreement, had that agreement validated by the then Labour Relations Commission, now the Workplace Relations Commission, through the creation of what are known as chairman's notes, which are separate from the overarching Haddington Road or Lansdowne Road agreements but form an integral part of good working relations at public sector level. Although those notes are not brought to my attention, the sectoral Ministers would be aware of the part of those notes which pertain to their areas of operation and information has been instanced in responses to parliamentary questions.

On the second issue raised by the Deputy regarding penalties, there is no intention of any penalties being introduced for anybody. It is my strong desire that all public sector workers be fully encompassed by the pay restoration mechanism set out in this agreement. It comes back to the point made by Deputy Seamus Healy that in any negotiation between management and trade unions, there is give and take on both sides. Management on this side, namely, the State, has to be mindful of what the State can afford. The cost of full restoration of all elements of FEMPI is, as I have indicated to the House previously, approximately €2.2 billion. We could not find €2.2 billion in 2016 without impacting enormously on other services or breaching the legal basis in which we are now obliged to anchor our fiscal policy, namely, the Stability and Growth Pact. Neither option was desirable or wise and so we did not do that.

As I said, following serious negotiations, during which there was much toing and froing, in terms of discussion, a deal was cut. That deal was then brought back to the trade unions. The public services committee of congress is the recognised body to validate or reject an agreement and it endorsed this agreement. The majority of public servants, represented by trade unions, endorsed the agreement. This legislation, which I am asking the House to endorse, follows on from public servants' endorsement of the agreement. What we are doing by way of this legislation is endorsing the negotiated agreed position with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions through the public services committee of congress.

In regard to what happens to persons who or unions which want to exclude themselves from the agreement, I am not leveraging anybody into this, although I hope everybody will sign up to it. We cannot have a situation whereby people would take on only the benefits and none of the liabilities of it in terms of ask by the management side. That would not be fair to those who are carrying the burden. I am sure the trade union movement as a whole would be very miffed if anybody who is not part of congress were to benefit from full pay restoration and whatever else is on offer but not subject to any of the other requirements of the agreement. That is not the way solemn overarching agreements work. That is not the way collective negotiations operate. When collective agreement, based on majority support, is reached, everybody is bound by it. It cannot be the case that some are bound by it and others are not and can go their own way. If someone excludes himself or herself from it, then he or she is excluded. That is something over which we have no control. It is not possible to cherry-pick.

As I have already indicated to the trade unions which have rejected by vote the Lansdowne Road agreement, I am happy for my officials to sit down with them and bring them through the consequences in detail. I make that offer again today to all trade unions. One of the trade unions representing teachers is protesting outside Leinster House today. The teachers have negotiated a particularly strong deal in relation to this agreement. While the INTO, which is the biggest teacher trade union, has endorsed this agreement, the TUI has not. There are two elements to that. Again, I am happy for my officials to sit down with the TUI and go through its concerns. The higher paid TUI members might be concerned about the speed with which the top level pay is being restored. We have structured this so that initial benefits go to low and middle income workers. That is how it should be. I understand that one of the concerns of the TUI is the speed of abolition of the pension reduction. It is concerned that the pension reduction over the next three years will affect only 80% of workers, presumably, because some of its members are on pensions greater than €35,000 per annum and it would like the pension reduction applied to them restored more quickly.

We have deliberately focused this on low and middle income earners and low and middle income pensioners in the first instance. There will be full restoration over time. I would ask that trade unions which have concerns about this sit down with my officials who will go through it in some detail.

I thank the Minister for his clarification on the sectoral arrangements. I do not doubt that dealing with such a body of workers is complicated by definition. I raised the issue in relation to section 4 for the following reason. I acknowledge the Minister and his predecessor negotiated with trade unions but it was always on the understanding, or the threat, that agreement would be reached-----

My predecessor did not negotiate.

I stand corrected. The Minister is right. I apologise for that misrepresentation of his predecessor. In any event, in the Minister's case, it was a matter of negotiating on the absolute understanding that in the absence of agreement, he would legislate. There are echoes of this in section 4. Can the Minister confirm that in amending the 2013 FEMPI legislation, he is providing for an extension by a further two years of the suspension of incremental pay scales in respect of those not encompassed by a registered collective agreement, namely, the Lansdowne Road agreement? The concern is - it is a legitimate concern which goes beyond this particular legislation to the manner in which generally industrial relations are conducted and agreements are reached - that for those workers who do not fall into line in terms of signing up to the agreement, the Minister will legislate to penalise them. That is a cause of worry for, as referenced by the Minister, teachers. More generally, if this is the new modus operandi of the State in terms of how it collectively bargains, it should be a cause of concern for everybody working in the public service and Civil Service. Workers are being told, "Agree or we legislate", or "Agree and not alone will we legislate but we will legislate in a fairly targeted way to penalise you." That is not a good day out, particularly for somebody such as the Minister who many times has set out his own trade union credentials and those of his forefathers.

This Bill does not seek to do anything more than implement a negotiated agreement. What I will not do in the context of the restoration of pay and conditions which were negotiated is provide those to people who are not party to the agreement. To do so would be unfair to those who are party to it. In the case of any union not complying with the terms of a negotiated agreement democratically voted upon and accepted by the majority of workers and endorsed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, it would be extremely difficult to justify people who exclude themselves from that agreement being allowed to gain in respect of the positive side of the agreement while at the same time excluding themselves from doing things that their fellow workers, often in the same workplace, would undertake to do in terms of the maintenance of hours and other things required under the agreement. This is not unique to the public service. It applies to any negotiated agreement in any workplace.

I cannot envisage a situation where representatives of SIPTU or any union would go into a workplace to negotiate terms and conditions for members only to have one person say, "I will take the overtime rate increase and the additional pay, thanks very much, but I will not do the things the rest of my colleagues are doing". Would other workers be expected to accept that individual's position? That is just not the way collective bargaining works. It involves a representative sitting down and negotiating with an employer. Workers buy into the collective agreement or exclude themselves from it; they cannot buy into the good bits and exclude themselves from the parts they do not like. That is not how any agreement or negotiation, in the trade union or any other sphere, could or does operate.

The Minister says he does not want to see penalties imposed, but this section is concerned with setting out penalties and punishments for unions that are not part of the Lansdowne Road agreement. The unions that have not accepted the agreement but are party to the Haddington Road agreement want to continue to avail of the terms of the latter.

They will be able to avail of those terms in full.

They are not trying to pick and choose anything from the Lansdowne Road agreement. They want to be able to maintain the current situation, where they are a party to the Haddington Road agreement, and not be penalised because they have chosen democratically not to be part of the new agreement. The Haddington Road agreement has not run out and remains in place. The unions in question simply want to continue its terms. They are not cherry-picking in any way in regard to the Lansdowne Road agreement.

Does the Minister know how many public servants are not members of trade unions? I often meet public sector workers who tell me their union due is €300 per year, which is the same as their car insurance premium. A number of public servants have made that point to me and questioned what they get for their money. That is a matter for trade unions and their members to sort out, but it is a point that is often raised with me. Some of those public servants have decided to opt out of union membership and keep the €300 or so per annum to do with as they choose. Where do non-union public servants fit into the mix in terms of implementation of the Lansdowne Road agreement? Surely that agreement is not just for members of trade unions? In the interests of proper management of the public service, I hope it will cover everybody employed in the service. Although non-union workers were not part of the negotiations and are not party to the agreement, it would make no sense to exclude them.

As the Minister knows, some 600,000 people are trade union members, 300,000 of whom are public servants. This suggests only 300,000 out of a private sector workforce of some 1.7 million are members of trade unions, which represents one in six or thereabouts. In other words, the overwhelming majority of private sector workers are not in trade unions, while the overwhelming majority of public servants are. However, not all public service workers are in that camp. Will the Minister clarify the position on those who, by their own volition, have opted out of trade union membership? As I understand it, several unions representing higher paid staff, for example, voted against the agreement. I support the principle of collective agreement and that the majority view should hold sway in a democratic process. However, even within the unions that voted "Yes", there were members who voted "No". We cannot single out people based on their membership or non-membership of a trade union. It is not as simple as whether a particular union accepted the agreement; we are talking about people. The issue is not in the sole control of trade unions because some workers are not involved in that process. It is down to the Minister, as the person responsible for overseeing public expenditure, to ensure there is an arrangement for all public servants, not just those who happen to be in or out of a particular union.

On Deputy Seamus Healy's point, I have made clear my undertaking to honour any agreement entered into by the Government with the trade union movement and public sector workers. We will honour the Croke Park agreement, the Haddington Road agreement and the Lansdowne Road agreement in full. Nobody will be excluded. The Deputy is correct that the Haddington Road agreement runs until the summer of 2016, but he is incorrect that all some people want is to ensure the provisions of that agreement are maintained. In fact, some people want the pay restoration benefits of the Lansdowne Road agreement in 2016 also. They do not want to be excluded from it. All I am saying is that one cannot have the benefits of an agreement to which one is not party. Nobody is going to break the Haddington Road agreement, but the restoration of pay is a provision of the Lansdowne Road agreement. If people want to avail of pay restoration measures, they have to be part of the relevant agreement. It is as simple as that.

The public sector is a very diverse entity, with many sectors and sub-sectors within it providing a broad range of services for the public. We must work at some level of logic. We cannot have people in the public sector determining on an individual basis what they buy into and which arrangements they are willing to work. People cannot simply choose their working hours or the conditions they enjoy according to their own wishes. Overarching decisions are made that apply to grades in the public service and to everybody in that grade if they want to serve. That is part of their terms and conditions of employment. I do not have the exact numbers, but because in excess of two thirds of civil servants are part of trade unions, we negotiate with those unions on the basis that they have democratically determined the views of their members. When an agreement is endorsed by a union on behalf of its members, we implement it.

What we are doing today is moving out of the dark phase of pay cuts, pension cuts, additional working hours and so on and beginning the process of pay and pension restoration and an improvement in conditions for workers in the public sector. Are there public sector workers and pensioners who would like that to happen more quickly? Yes, there are. Would I like to see it being done sooner? Yes and I wish none of this was required. We have come out of the dark night of economic ruin and are moving into a brighter place. We must pick our path carefully to avoid putting the recovery in jeopardy. As I said, the fiscal space I will have available to me next year will be in the order of €750 million and I have allocated €300 million for public sector pay and pensions restoration. I have been heavily criticised for that level of allocation, but I consider it the right thing to do. I asked people in the teeth of crisis to step up to the plate and, in a way of which I am extraordinarily proud, that is exactly what they did. All the public servants involved in this process were hugely influential in helping us along the path to recovery, which is now well advanced but not complete. I hope we will be able to review this legislation in the next three years as the economic recovery continues apace.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 14, line 6, after "2013" to insert "or in a sectoral agreement".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

This legislation sends an important signal to the public service generally and acknowledges the contribution workers in that sector have made to our recovery. I expect people to be pleasantly surprised by the measures contained in the Bill because I am not sure everybody has fully understood the benefit they will receive next year. As I said, I hope to be in a position to explain the changes, through my officials, to any union that has concerns about them.

It is a major step towards undoing some of the imposition put upon public sector workers during the gravest of times. Whoever is in my position next year will keep this under review. It will be a welcome supplement to, and augmentation of, public service pay and pensions on 1 January. I thank the House for its support and the debate on this matter.

On the positive side of the ledger, it should be acknowledged there is a level of pay relief for low and middle-income public and civil servants. While modest, it is welcome. As I said earlier, it is not going to lead to a life of luxury or excess for any of those individuals concerned. When faced with that proposition, I understand why individual workers and their unions backed the agreement, particularly after many years of cutbacks. It is welcome that there is some relief for those workers.

However, what is depressing, although not entirely unexpected, is that many of the reflexes of the system and of the Minister kick in again. I debated with him the equity argument of a full restoration of higher portions of income versus partial restoration for lower portions of income. That says to me that we have not made any progress over the past several years in the many debates we have had on this. The reflex also kicked in for former Ministers, taoisigh and tánaistí and so on, who are over-pensioned. Never mind emergency legislation, that matter should have been addressed a long time ago. The fact they too will have restored to them what they regard as their entitlement, and what I regard as an obscenity, is truly depressing.

Also on the negative side, is the feeling, if not yet the certainty, among certain groups of workers who rejected the Lansdowne Road agreement, that they will be singled out for special and negative attention. We will see if that comes to pass. Of course, ironically through the financial emergency measures in the public interest legislation and its unwinding, the manner in which collective bargaining and industrial relations are reached in the public sector has changed utterly and not for the better.

I disagree with the Minister’s assertion that people have not figured out what this will mean in their take-home pay and their income level. I think that matter has been very quickly calculated and well understood within the Civil Service and the public service. What will be newsworthy to many people is that, despite all the rhetoric and initial posturing around an exclusive concern for those on €65,000 and under, this legislation sets out, black on white, full pay restoration for those higher portions of income, particularly for those over €110,000.

The Deputy knows that is not true.

No. Income over €110,000 in three stages will be fully restored. That is what the law states.

Only the third cut. The Deputy is allergic to facts.

That will come as a surprise to many.

I support the legislation, primarily because it will allow for the Lansdowne Road agreement, which was freely entered into by the trade union movement representing its members and the Government as their employers. It was put to a democratic vote and the majority voted for it. I believe in the democratic principle that it should carry. Notwithstanding that, I do not ever remember a social partnership agreement which had 100% support. There was always a handful against it; sometimes, craft unions while other times, higher paid unions. Social solidarity applies in the workforce and when the majority agrees on agreement, it is accepted. In the old days, it was done in the yard or in the canteen with a show of hands. Now, it is done through secret ballot. My party has always supported social partnership. When the financial emergency commenced several years ago, measures had to be taken unilaterally by the then Government. The Croke Park agreement was to stabilise the situation after those unilateral actions.

This is the sixth in the series of FEMPI Bills. We had pay cuts originally, culminating with a third round contained in the Haddington Road agreement. This legislation unwinds the third cut, not the previous two wage cuts. I support the trade union movement when it makes the democratic decision to accept and approve the Lansdowne Road agreement. I am disappointed that some members chose not to accept the Lansdowne Road agreement and, instead, wanted to cherry-pick this legislation to exclude certain people from an agreement accepted by the majority of public sector workers.

In the past, when the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, was a Fine Gael spokesperson, he always gave out that the big deals in social partnership were done outside the House without any legislation or debate. Maybe those agreements did not require legislation but his complaint was the axis of power on those issues was not in the Chamber. Now, the least the trade unions can expect from the Oireachtas is that when they have entered into an agreement that it would not be unravelled, particularly where some Members think it would be popular to do so. It was a long and tortuous process to get all the voting on this agreement to be completed. If we start cherry-picking the agreement, we will ultimately end up undoing it. I oppose that type of cherry-picking.

I have serious concerns with this legislation. I believe it to be unconstitutional on the question of the extension of the financial emergency for a further three years. It has constitutional difficulties with the non-restoration of pensions and the withholding of €95 million of pension entitlements, which are effectively the property of individuals. I am satisfied some of the sections are anti-trade union, attempting to force trade unions and their members into an agreement of which they do not want to be part. All they want is to be able to abide by the existing agreements into which they have entered. These sections also propose to punish those unions and trade unionists on this. I have serious concerns about this Bill.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 109; Níl, 16.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Seamus Healy and Clare Daly.
Question declared carried.