Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Bill seeks to implement the provisions agreed in the Public Service Stability Agreement, PSSA, 2018-2020 of earlier this year. It does so in the context of our country’s continuing economic growth and within the Government’s policy of carefully looking after our economy.

Last month I had the honour of presenting my first budget to the House as Minister for Finance. That balanced budget provided the funding for the 2018 provisions of the Bill. It did so against the background of an economic recovery that few foresaw at the time the financial emergency measures passed through the House. Economic growth is predicted to be approximately 3.5% next year. We hope and expect to see employment levels continue to improve. Nobody should underestimate the extent to which the emergency measures have contributed to the great improvement in our public finances.

The five FEMPI Acts between 2009 and 2013 made a vital contribution to the savings we needed in order to balance our books and restore our international credibility. The savings also allowed us to begin in reinvest in our public services, our infrastructure and in communities throughout the country. The Acts entailed considerable sacrifices from workers across all levels in the public service, which needs to be recognised and commended. That sacrifice was crucial to the transformation in our public finances in recent years. The FEMPI legislation also imposed reductions on contractor fees and on public service pensions, which I also acknowledge.

Two years ago, this House enacted the 2015 Act which began the phased unwinding of FEMPI. This Bill completes that not inconsiderable task. However, it does so in the same spirit of minimising risk and ensuring that we do not lose sight of the broader economic context of Brexit and other external risks.

The Bill proposes a way of repealing FEMPI that ensures, as far as is possible, that we will not need to return to such extraordinary measures. This is about future-proofing public service pay and pensions in the context of the recent and difficult history of reductions to them. This final FEMPI Bill also follows the progressive nature of its predecessors. The FEMPI reductions applied to all pay levels, but they impacted to a much greater extent those on higher salaries. Similarly, in the unwinding the Government is protecting the lower paid, who will see restoration much more quickly than senior public servants. Furthermore, the pay increases in this Bill are broadly in line with those taking place across the wider economy. I will outline the exact nature of the pay measures shortly when I come to the main provisions of the Bill.

Our teachers, nurses, gardaí and other public servants and their retired counterparts are deserving of the pay and pension restoration set out in this Bill, particularly after such a long period of wage restraint and reductions. There is also a legal entitlement to that restoration, since the FEMPI Acts, which significantly reduced their pay and pension entitlements, were predicated on a financial emergency from which we have now, thankfully, emerged.

The phased, measured and sustainable path ahead that this Bill provides is the best way to meet our legal obligation to repeal, but without returning us to pay rates that were unaffordable in the past and will be unaffordable again in the future. I will deal with this point further later in my comments.

This summer, officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and from Government employers across the State entered into negotiations with unions and associations representing more than 300,000 public servants. Their aim was to conclude a satisfactory successor to the Lansdowne Road agreement. Those negotiations were very difficult, but they led to the new Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. The agreement has been accepted by my colleagues in Cabinet and ratified by the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and other staff associations.

It builds on the foundations of not only the Lansdowne Road agreement, but also of the Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements. In that sense, it offers the prospect of stability, which is welcome. In other ways, however, the new agreement represents change. Perhaps most significantly, it provides that from 2019 onwards, the vast majority of public servants will pay an additional superannuation contribution towards their pension. This will place their pension entitlement on a more sustainable footing. It is, therefore, a necessary and important step in terms of the future-proofing I mentioned earlier.

As in previous agreements, this agreement also provides for a large number of specific reforms to help support our ongoing efforts to improve the services the State delivers. Reform should not be reserved for times of emergency; it has to be continuous and evolving, reflecting the ever-changing and dynamic world in which we live, and this agreement provides for that.

Of course, the cost-cutting measures FEMPI introduced would not by themselves have been enough to get the country back on the right track. Without the collective agreements that underpinned the legislation, we could not have enjoyed industrial relations stability and all of the benefits associated with it at what was a very delicate juncture for our country. This is why I am convinced, as I have said on many occasions at other moments of difficulty, that the collective approach is the only viable option to the management of pay within our public services. That is why this Bill seeks to incentivise adherence to the agreement. It is therefore vital that we ensure that those who have made a commitment to work with us are rewarded for that. The Government believes in the collective approach as encapsulated in the public service stability agreement and that is why we are now seeking to reflect that agreement in the provisions of this Bill.

At this juncture, I am required by the Standing Orders of this House to state that this is a money Bill containing measures which have already been provided for in the budget and it provides for the repeal of emergency legislation. As such, the Bill has, with the full agreement of the House’s Business Committee, not been the subject of the usual pre-legislative scrutiny.

I also ask the House to note that both the Central Bank and the European Central Bank have been formally consulted and the latter has published its opinion on its website. I will deal with the sections relating to the Central Bank in detail on Committee Stage.

This is a substantial and complex piece of legislation, the majority of whose measures are of a financial nature. It is divided into seven parts. For the benefit of Members I will now outline its main provisions.

Part 1 is a general, introductory section setting out the basic terms that will be used throughout, including "covered" and "non-covered" public servants. It also provides for the repeal of the 2009 Act, so that the pension-related deduction will cease to apply to public servants as of 1 January 2019; as from that date the additional superannuation contribution shall apply.

Part 2 is the most substantive part of the Bill. It provides for pay restoration for all public servants, supplementing the increases under the FEMPI Act 2015. By the end of the process outlined in this part, all of the FEMPI pay cuts will be undone. Chapter 2 provides for pay increases for all public servants covered by the PSSA as set out in that agreement as follows. They will receive 1% on 1 January 2018 and a further 1% on 1 October 2018. In 2019 those whose salaries do not exceed €30,000 will receive 1% on 1 January 2019 and all public servants under the PSSA will receive 1.75% on 1 September 2019. Finally, in 2020 those whose salaries do not exceed €32,000 will receive 0.5% on 1 January 2020 and all public servants under the PSSA will receive 2% on 1 October 2020.

Chapter 3 provides for the same pay increases for those not covered by the PSSA but at a slower rate. Specifically, they will receive every pay increase I have just outlined exactly nine months after their "covered" counterparts. In addition, as section 21 sets out, they will not receive any incremental increases for the duration of the agreement.

It is the Government’s ambition that every public servant will be covered by the PSSA. The vast majority of public servants have subscribed to the collective approach agreed with their representatives and must be prioritised when it comes to further pay restoration.

Chapter 4 outlines how the measures I have just outlined will interact with the pre-existing commitments under the 2015 Act. Chapter 5 deals with those public servants for whom the pay measures in the PSSA will not have fully restored pay to pre-FEMPI levels.

The vast majority - everyone earning up to €70,000, who make up about 90% of the total public service - will have had their pay fully restored by October 2020. However, for the minority I am speaking about here, this chapter will complete that process over a further time period. There are two different cohorts covered by this chapter: those earning between €70,000 and €150,000; and those earning over €150,000. In both cases, the Bill provides that an order must be made by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform specifying a date after 1 October 2020 - the date of the last pay increase - by which full restoration is to have taken place. For those earning under €150,000, this date must be no later than 1 July 2021. For those earning over that amount, it must be no later than 1 July 2022.

I would remind Members of three factors in regard to these measures. First, the legal entitlement of these individuals to this restoration. Second, the fact that these individuals were proportionally much more severely affected by the pay reductions and are having their salaries restored at a much slower pace than those at lower salary levels. Third, that while their gross pay will be restored, the additional superannuation contribution, which I will shortly outline, will act to reduce take home pay on a permanent basis.

Finally in relation to this Part, section 20 specifies that all members of the Government will be altogether excluded from this further restoration. Moreover, the Government has decided to waive all of the restoration due under the public service stability agreement.

The next Part, Part 3, is shorter and concerns pensions. As well as those currently working, the FEMPI Acts affected many public service pensioners. Just as there was pay restoration, and a legal imperative to complete it, there must be further amelioration of the public service pension reduction, PSPR, for those still liable for it. This is done through the phased raising of thresholds, continuing the process begun under the 2015 Act. By the end of 2020 the vast majority of public service pensioners will no longer have any reduction to their payments. For those still liable for the PSPR, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform must make an order by the end of December 2020 specifying when it will cease to apply.

Part 4 is also about pensions, but in this case it is about how public servants contribute towards their pensions. Since the very first FEMPI Act eight years ago, public servants have paid a pension related deduction, PRD, on all of their earnings. This will continue until the end of next year, as set out in the FEMPI Act 2015. However, this Bill repeals the original FEMPI Act 2009, so that no PRD will be charged after that date. Instead, as provided for under the PSSA, the majority of public servants will pay an additional superannuation contribution, or ASC, from the 1 January 2019 onwards. This secures substantial funding towards the cost of public service pensions, amounting to approximately €546 million per annum from 2020 onwards. This will be an addition to some €700 million already contributed on an annual basis. This permanent source of revenue will help to defray the cost of providing pensions to public servants into the future and is necessary to place public service pensions on a more sustainable footing in light of the significant accrued liabilities that exist.

The ASC is only chargeable on pensionable pay. The ASC will apply differently depending on whether a public servant is a member of a standard accrual scheme, a fast accrual scheme or the single public service pension scheme. For those who joined fast accrual schemes before 2013, the ASC rates that will apply will be the same as the PRD rates. For those in standard accrual schemes, the ASC rates will be more favourable than the PRD rates, as the threshold will be raised in 2019 and again in 2020. For those who are members of the single scheme, that is, all new entrants to any part of the public service after 2012, the ASC rates will be more favourable again, reflecting the fact that, as the report of the Public Service Pay Commission found, this scheme is already on a more sustainable basis than those that preceded it. For those not covered by the agreement, a larger proportion of their salaries will be subject to ASC compared to covered workers until 2021, but from 2021 onwards the same ASC rates will apply to both covered and non-covered public servants. I am sure Members will appreciate the complexity of this.

It is difficult to present, in the time available here, all of the information regarding percentages and thresholds, which is far better conveyed and understood in tabular form. It is enough to say at this juncture that the effect of the ASC becoming a permanent feature of the pay and pensions landscape is that public servants will henceforth pay a fairer contribution for the pension they will eventually enjoy upon retirement. That is what this Part of the Bill achieves.

Part 5 places certain provisions of the FEMPI legislation on a permanent, non-emergency footing. These provisions relate to the power to vary the fees paid to contractors, mainly health professionals, for services and goods rendered. The exercise of such a power would of course only be possible where a contractual right to vary exists.

Parts 6 and 7 deal with transitional arrangements and miscellaneous provisions, including transitional arrangements for the payment of professional fees. As part of these transitional arrangements and in the context of exiting the FEMPI legislative framework, the Minister for Health has announced that he intends to initiate a process of engagement in 2018, in consultation with my Department, with relevant representative bodies on service delivery, contractual reform and associated fees. This process will aim to conclude a multi-annual approach to fees, commencing in 2019, in return for service improvement and contractual reform and in line with Government priorities for the health service.

The repeal of the financial emergency legislation is an important milestone in the history of our State, as was the achievement of broadly balancing our books in the recent budget. While our economy may be recovering, our society is not yet healed. Future historians or economists might see this recovery, from their detached perspective, as in many ways a rapid turnaround, relatively speaking. However, I know that those who have lived through it will not and do not feel the same. After all, by the end of this agreement, it will have been over ten years since the first FEMPI measures were introduced. Notwithstanding that fact, a careful and gradual unwinding of these reductions is the only sensible way to proceed, given the constraints we face and the overriding priority for stability and sustainability in our public finances. It is about balancing these requirements with our responsibilities to restore pay for the public servants who contributed so much to the economic recovery from which we are currently benefitting.

This Bill, in so far as it can be achieved in today’s uncertain economic climate, provides certainty and a degree of closure for contractors, for pensioners and for public servants. It also allows a level of future planning through the introduction of the ASC to improve the long-term sustainability of public service pensions. Lastly, it provides a phased series of modest and affordable pay increases over three years in a way that is fair to public servants and the people of this country.

I look forward to hearing the views of the House. I commend this Bill to the House.

The Fianna Fáil Deputies have the next time slot. Deputies Dara Calleary, Jackie Cahill and James Lawless are sharing 20 minutes. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I will take ten minutes and Deputies Cahill and Lawless will each have five minutes.

Having sat on the other side of the House for the introduction of much of the FEMPI legislation, it is one of those Bills one tends to remember where one was sitting when we introduced it because it brought huge pain to many families which, obviously, we did not want to do but we were left in no position other than to do it. It is worth recalling some of the key elements of it. In 2009, the pension related deduction was introduced, which brought in, effectively overnight, a further 7% reduction in salaries. The PRD was contributing about €900 million a year to the Exchequer. In September 2009 we introduced an 11-month pay freeze. An issue that is often forgotten is that pay rises that had been committed to under previous agreements of 3.5% in September 2009 and 2.5% in June 2010 did not happen.

Instead, substantial pay cuts were provided for in December 2009. The €1.1 billion that is needed to fund this legislation is just a portion of the contribution made by our public and civil servants to this country's economic recovery. We should also take into account the extra unpaid hours that were introduced and the extra burden taken on by many people in standing up for services in many areas that had been savaged. It is important this evening to remember the very real cost of FEMPI to families. In that context, I welcome the introduction of legislation to signal the end of FEMPI. I acknowledge that the Minister and the trade union movement have done a great deal of work. The Bill is not perfect. We want to engage with the Minister on Committee and Report Stages to try to improve it. We will signal a number of areas that need urgent attention. As my time is limited, I will focus on a few of them.

The flexibility of our public service was most evident in Mountmellick last week, when members of the Civil Defence, local authority staff, Army personnel, gardaí and welfare staff mobilised overnight to provide an effective on-site response to a serious situation that was developing. I could mention some other initiatives, such as the introduction of online passport applications and the various changes in welfare and community welfare services. I know the Minister presented awards to civil servants on Monday evening. All of these changes were introduced during the FEMPI era with a view to improving people's experiences. Despite the cuts I have mentioned, the civil servants who introduced these changes did so with a willingness to make people's experiences of the Civil Service better.

We want to signal our concerns in a number of areas. The new contracts that were introduced during 2012 have added a new layer of pay in many areas, the most high-profile of which is teaching. These changes have also been applied in the medical sector and in the Garda. Many staff in the Oireachtas who are doing the same job are being paid at different rates. The Public Service Pay Commission is commissioning a report on this issue as part of an examination of how we should address it. We need to acknowledge that pay inequality is causing dissent in the public sector and is putting pressure on people. When we ask two teachers to teach classes, we pay them differently. When we ask two gardaí to walk the streets at night to protect us, we pay them differently even though they face the same level of danger. I acknowledge that a report has been commissioned. We must see it as soon as possible. The three teaching unions, particularly the INTO and the TUI, have concerns about this Bill that are based completely on pay inequality. We need to move to address that.

We will also be looking for clarity with regard to the future of allowances that were withdrawn during the period of FEMPI cuts, particularly in nursing and teaching, having originally been introduced by the Labour Court. The allowances available to teaching principals in primary schools in recognition of the extra burden they carry were reduced. This should be reconsidered, as should the allowances that were paid to teachers in Gaeltacht areas in respect of teaching through Irish and having to access teaching materials through Irish.

In addition to pay reduction, there has been a significant change in human resources policies in the public sector. The public and Civil Service now faces a substantial human resources challenge. While pay is an issue, old and inflexible human resources practices are discouraging our nurses and teachers from coming back and taking up positions. We need the best staff possible to fill shortages in areas like medicine and teaching. We have a shortage of pilots in the Air Corps.

According to yesterday's newspapers, which covered news other than the obvious, just seven physics graduates are currently training to go into secondary teaching. That is an extraordinary failure for a country that prides itself on its efforts in the area of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We are not encouraging the best graduates to go into teaching to ensure we have a throughput of science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers. We need to look at human resources practices and make them relevant to the workforce of today. There is a need for flexibility with regard to matters like career breaks. The rigid approach of the past must go if we want to encourage people back into the public service.

Pay is an issue, but we need to be much more flexible regarding human resources. As part of that flexibility, we need to come back to the question of pay equalisation. We like to have gardaí, nurses and teachers living in our communities, but if they are on the new levels of pay they cannot afford to live in Dublin because of rental costs. Public service employers must look for imaginative solutions, perhaps involving housing co-operatives for teachers and gardaí. This is not solely a wage issue. We need to make it more attractive for our public servants to come to work in Dublin. If we want to them to give their time and dedication to the public service in Dublin, surely it is not beyond our ingenuity as Members of this House to help employers and senior managers in the public service to find ways to facilitate this.

FEMPI also put huge pressure on many contractors to the State, including pharmacists and GPs. There are pressures in such areas because of the decreased availability of professionals to supply services. GPs and pharmacists took a particularly big hit under FEMPI. If we are to move to Sláintecare, which places a massive emphasis on primary care, we have to reinvest in our GPs and pharmacists and give them an incentive to build the kind of primary care structure we want and consider necessary in order to reduce the pressure on our health service. The reimagining of their role that will be required in the context of the reversal of this legislation should be linked with our ambition to create a proper primary health care service, as set out in Sláintecare.

The reversal of certain reductions that is provided for in this Bill constitutes a nod in the direction of retired public servants. Although the cohort of retired civil servants comes under the broader church of ICTU, it is not formally represented. I have raised this issue with the Minister on many occasions. This was the first time we cut their salaries. Many of them do not have the possibility of getting this money back over time. For many of them, time is not on their side in terms of making another income. We must find a more formal way ensuring retired public servants, who have much to give, are properly involved. I acknowledge that the Minister has met representatives of the alliance on many occasions. There needs to be formal recognition of their role in talks which affect their income and conditions.

I am nervous about the inclusion in this Bill of an aspect of industrial relations strategy. I will expect to hear more on this issue from the Minister on Committee and Report Stages. Sections 11 to 14, inclusive, differentiate between public servants who approve the deal and those who do not. This strategy has been agreed by the employer, but I remain to be convinced that it belongs in primary legislation. We need to work to consider that in much more detail.

This legislation represents an improvement on where we have come from. It is a step in the right direction. While we need to look at pay and conditions, as I have said, we also need to reimagine the role of our public service. We need to make the public service a place in which people are happy and proud to work. We owe a huge debt to our public service. As we come to the end of this year, I think of events during the year like the loss of Rescue 116, to which the public service responded by mobilising in defence of their colleagues to try to find those who had been on board. Public servants are able to mobilise quickly in response to major events around the country. I have already mentioned what happened in Mountmellick last week. We cannot continue to depend on their generosity of spirit. We have to reward them financially while respecting their ambition to have career pathways in the public service. They need to be assured that a career in the service of the State can be as rewarding as a career in the private sector. The public service should have all the advantages of the private sector. It has many of them, but there are many areas in which public servants do not have sufficient control. As public representatives, we need to show ambition by giving them that control.

The Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017 will enact the public service stability agreement that has been reached between the Government and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The question of how the Government will deal with the fact that three teaching unions - the ASTI, the TUI and the INTO - have yet to ratify the agreement is a serious one. This outstanding issue is a cause for great concern. Under this agreement, teachers who joined the profession after 2011 will continue to be paid less than colleagues who took up their positions before then, even though they are doing exactly the same job. This issue of pay parity is the main reason the stability agreement has not been ratified by the teacher unions. It is of the utmost importance that this issue is not allowed to escalate further. While industrial action must be avoided, we cannot expect young teachers to accept this inequality indefinitely. The vital work of teachers in our communities underpins the quality of our education standards, of which we have rightly been proud over the generations.

We must endeavour to attract the very best young people into the teaching profession. One of the key elements of attracting them is offering a fair and appropriate financial package which offers them a clear path for their career. By continuing with the current regime we demotivate the teachers who have joined since 2011 and we stand the risk of making teaching a second rate profession, which will do untold damage to the education system and have far-reaching consequences for our economy in the years ahead. I urge the Minister to take this particular aspect of the Bill seriously and to find a solution that will honour the commitment of our hard-working teachers.

Our young gardaí and members of the Defence Forces find themselves in a similar position. We expect these men and women, who put themselves in harm's way, to uphold the rule of law and to keep our society safe. We expect these young men and women to maintain the security of our State. We expect them to do so and then they are paid less than their colleagues who joined before 2011. This cannot continue. Staff retention and recruitment is another key issue affecting the public sector. This agreement fails to deal fully with it. In areas such as nursing and the Defence Forces numbers have fallen to critical levels. GPs, particularly in rural areas, are failing to take up positions. This has a huge impact on rural communities. This not only affects the services themselves, but also the conditions under which existing employees are working.

While this Bill addresses some of the grievances for public sector pensioners, the speed of restoration is not what they would be happy with. This agreement will cost €880 million over the next three years or €1.1 billion over four years. The bulk of the cost will be loaded to 2019 and beyond. The cost in 2018 will be €180 million. Unwinding FEMPI on a fiscally sustainable basis has always been a core policy objective for Fianna Fáil. During the financial crisis which began in 2008, FEMPI legislation was enacted in 2009 and again in 2010, 2011 and 2013. As part of the gradual unwinding of FEMPI legislation, the Haddington Road agreement and then the Lansdowne Road agreement were negotiated. Fianna Fáil was not part of the negotiations. However, we believe it is in the interest of the country that the agreement reached will be sustainable and fair, particularly for lower and medium-paid workers. It must also allow for more public services to be provided, particularly in health and education.

It is imperative that we make these professions attractive for young people in order to ensure that we can provide the workforce needed for our growing population. Our public servants are key to providing the services which our population needs and demands. We look forward to progressing these issues.

At the outset, to begin on a positive note, I welcome the beginning of the unwinding of the FEMPI legislation. My party has always had this as a goal, as has been outlined by Deputies Calleary and Cahill. That aspect, at least, is to be welcomed. It is a long time coming and, as Deputy Cahill mentioned, our gardaí, teachers, nurses and other public servants are extremely well-deserving of these measures. However, it is a bit like the curate's egg. It is spoiled in parts, which may spoil it for everybody. We hope not. As Deputy Calleary said, we will see on Committee Stage.

There are many sections to the Bill. It is a complex Bill, as the Minister suggested. There is one section with which I have difficulty and with which the teaching unions have difficulty as has been mentioned already. We know how difficult it has been for the unions and public servants affected to carry this cross for the last several years. It is welcome that we are beginning to progress the unwinding of the legislation. I wish to signal a series of concerns, particularly on the dichotomy created within the Bill between the covered public servants and those not covered. The introduction of that definition at all, but particularly into primary legislation, does not sit well with me and does not sit well with industrial relations custom and practice.

We are well aware of the difficulties which have been experienced as a result of the lack of pay equality in the teaching unions in particular. There are newly qualified teachers who entered the profession months after colleagues who graduated the year before. In some cases there is a gap of €26,000 in terms of pay and benefits arising from the mere fact of some having a graduation date a few months later than those of their colleagues. Teachers are doing the same work in the schools and the staff room, in many cases they are teaching in the same classrooms, they are walking up and down the same corridors and they are sitting at lunch together and have to look one another in the eye.

I know that senior colleagues and those who qualified before the change feel just as awful at the gap of up to €26,000 between them and their colleagues, despite doing the same work. It is a very uncomfortable situation and it is very unfair. It must be to the credit of the teaching profession that it has hung its hat on the issue of seeking pay equality and trying to work towards it. That is the principal reason the teaching unions have not been comfortable with the previous agreements and why they did not enter into them.

The principal difficulty with this legislation as I see it is that it does not appear even to create a pathway to pay equality. I welcome the Minister's comments on what path forward can be found. I hope one can be found. That aspiration does not even appear to be contained in the legislation. If there is a way to sew such a pathway into it, perhaps through amendments on Committee Stage, it may be a way to proceed. At face value, however, I do not see that in the legislation.

There are again difficulties in respect of traditional custom and practice, trade union rights and industrial relations machinery. If one looks at section 21, there is what appears to be a very draconian measure. Not only does it prohibit, or appear to prohibit, members of those unions who will not enter an agreement from receiving the benefits of the measures in this legislation, but if I interpret it correctly, and this is the key point, it appears to affect even those unions which have not assented to agreement even if they have not engaged in industrial action. If they were to vocalise their dissent or express their unhappiness with the agreement, even if they were to take no industrial action or steps along those lines, their members will be excluded from the benefits because, if I am reading it correctly, they will be non-covered public servants. The union they belong to will be in that category.

It is a step too far to disbar a member of a union from benefitting. It appears that many issues such as the right to collective action, the right to take collective bargaining and freedom of association arise. I would welcome any clarification if I and the teaching unions are wrong in that interpretation. Certainly as it stands, section 21 appears to have that interpretation. Even were there an argument for such a measure, as Deputy Calleary has already said, primary legislation is not the place for it. The measures appear to be too draconian for a simple lack of assent, especially when it is not followed by industrial action.

Those are my concerns on the Bill. There is much to be welcomed, primarily the unpicking of the FEMPI legislation and the progress for many public servants, which is long-deserved and long-awaited. There are other concerns which centre on section 21 and on the definition of non-covered public servants. I await clarification on whether those concerns can be addressed and overcome. Perhaps there is an issue of interpretation. If that can be clarified in the House it would be very welcome. As it stands, they are concerns.

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to speak on this very important issue. It is an issue which has been prolonged to the frustration of many public workers. As we know, public sector workers have suffered an average of a 15% cut in pay. On top of this, new entrants from 1 January 2011 start on a payscale that is on average 10% lower than the rest of the workforce. We welcome some of the measures in this Bill which provide for the restoration of the basic salary of public servants reduced under FEMPI legislation. We also welcome the measures that provide for the restoration of pensions payable to public servants through the elimination or reduction of the pension-related deduction.

Last year Sinn Féin launched a framework document on the extension of the Lansdowne Road agreement and the fair and orderly unwinding of FEMPI. We are in favour of the orderly unwinding of FEMPl. We appreciate that if this legislation was scrapped, those on higher incomes would benefit disproportionately. We want to see reform so that those on low or middle pay in the public sector can be prioritised in pay agreements.

We recognise that the pay and conditions of public sector workers are primarily a matter for trade unions and their memberships. On the basis of the broad support among union membership for the new pay agreement, Sinn Féin will support this legislation. However, we have a number of concerns and will be seeking to amend the Bill on Committee Stage.

One of the most fundamental issues for post-2011 recruits in the public sector is the issue of pay equality. The teachers' unions have rejected the new pay agreement mainly on that basis. Increases in the cost of living and the legitimate concerns of front-line public sector staff doing the same work for less money mean it is not feasible for the issue to be left until after 2020. Teachers, gardaí and nurses have all taken industrial action on the issue and it must be resolved. Sinn Féin is committed to equal pay for equal work and believes the Government must commit to addressing the issue to avoid further unrest in the public sector.

We also share some concerns highlighted by trade unions relating to the punishment clause in sections 21 and 33 and will work to have those addressed. It beggars belief that the Government intends to impose sanctions on public sector workers who have not signed up to the new pay agreement. It shows the arrogance at the heart of this Government, an arrogance that all Members have witnessed in recent days in particular. It also shows that the Minister has learned nothing from the industrial unrest last year. As a strategy, it has failed. Instead of one teaching union being outside the pay agreement structure, there are now three, which sends a message that the issue needs to be resolved. The Government needs to learn that it cannot bully public sector workers into submission and that all workers, not only those in the public sector, have legitimate rights, including the right to engage in industrial action. Sinn Féin will fight hard to remove those clauses on Committee Stage and stand up for the thousands of public sector workers across the State who have not received fair play under this Government. We will not support any legislation that allows workers to be sanctioned through increment freezes simply for standing up for their basic rights. I call on the Government and Fianna Fáil to make a clear commitment that those who have not signed up to the new pay agreement will not be punished in that manner and that the clause will be removed from the legislation on Committee Stage.

I might be alone among the Members currently in the Chamber as having been in Government Buildings on the night the pension levy was introduced in 2009. There are many, including all the civil and public servants working tonight, who will remember that. Should they ever forget, there is a handy reminder in every pay packet they receive. At the time, we did not know what FEMPI was and continued to call it the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts. Some in the public service could not believe it would happen. People did not believe the Fianna Fáil-led Government of the time would go to war with civil and public servants or attack them. Little did we know in 2009 that it was to be the first of many attacks on civil and public servants. As a trade union organiser, I joined other representative organisations to form the 24/7 alliance. It was specifically formed because the belief among shift workers and those with unsocial hours such as firefighters, gardaí, prison officers, nurses and so on was that once the Government had started with that measure, it would then go after those receiving premium pay packets. We were right to come together to fight that measure at the time and the 24/7 alliance had a huge impact because it was trade unionism and collective activism at its most core and basic level.

In his contribution, the Minister advised Members that nobody should underestimate the extent to which those emergency measures have contributed to the great improvement in our public finances. Equally, nobody should underestimate the extent to which those measures begun by Fianna Fáil and taken up with a degree of enthusiasm by Fine Gael are currently causing huge problems in the public service, in particular in regard to recruitment. I refer to the pay inequality caused by the two-tier pay system. Sinn Féin has for some time been calling for a fair and timely unwinding of FEMPI from the bottom up in order that those on the lowest incomes will be first to benefit, ahead of those on high incomes.

Any Deputy who has been visited by representatives of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, INTO, or the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, as most Deputies probably have, will tell the Minister that the two-tier pay structure is contributing to emigration. However, it is doing more than that. I represented nurses for a long time. Many people correctly say that nurses often emigrate for a year after they graduate. However, such nurses are now not coming back to Ireland, which is causing a recruitment crisis in the health service. A similar recruitment crisis has been caused in the education sector. My sister is deputy principal of a primary school and dreads any teacher going on sick leave. I have spoken at length to delegations from the INTO in my office. They most fear having to find a substitute teacher because none is available. When I asked where all the teachers have gone, I was told they have gone to Dubai, England, the United States and so on and they are not coming back. The unequal pay structure plays a huge part in that.

The failure to address that issue will cost the Exchequer in the long run in terms of services not being delivered, expensive overtime and, ultimately, the loss of the brightest and best graduates who are leaving and not coming back. That should give the Government cause for great concern. Unfortunately, the Bill will compound and continue the pay inequality for civil and public servants recruited since 2011, which is wrong. That UNITE and the three teachers' unions have voted against the deal should make the Government sit up, take a bit of notice and acknowledge this is a very serious and real concern. Working and doing the exact same job for 15% less than the person one works alongside is not only demoralising but fundamentally wrong. As I said, I am a trade unionist and have fought and campaigned for the right to equal pay for work of equal value. The two-tier pay structure is being continued while we are told the economy has picked up and we are all doing better, but that is not being felt by newly qualified teachers, NQTs, or recent graduates in the nursing profession.

Industrial action, in particular by the teaching profession, is a very real possibility. Putting into legislation matters that should be the subject of normal industrial relations procedures is quite an aggressive act and will have the desired effect. It will anger civil and public servants. It will send exactly the message the Taoiseach sought to send to such workers when he spoke of the possibility of strikes being outlawed. That is the type of message those workers are receiving. It is about a heavy hand all of the time rather than talking about issues and stamping down on concerns rather than recognising they need to be dealt with. That is not the right way to go. I share the concerns expressed by the teachers' unions in this regard, and the failure to acknowledge such concerns will lead us into further problems and further recruitment and retention crises.

That said, we acknowledge that the public service stability agreement, PSSA, has been accepted by the majority of trade unions, and that is important. We will, at an appropriate time, propose amendments to this legislation. As my colleague, Deputy Nolan, has outlined, we do not object to the Bill, but that is not to say we are happy about it; rather, we are committed to working with the teachers and nurses and those other workers in the civil and public service who are committed and working hard to reverse pay inequality. We will do all we can from these benches to assist them in that regard.

I now call Deputies Bríd Smith and Ruth Coppinger. They have 20 minutes between them. Are they sharing their time and taking ten minutes each?

Yes. The Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill is obviously an implementation of the public service stability agreement. As such, some public sector workers who voted to accept the deal will get some pay restoration, which they very badly need and obviously deserve. However, there is something rotten in the Bill in that it represents a very Thatcherite tactic of divide and conquer. Other workers will suffer from the Bill, namely those who rejected the PSSA because of the real and specific impact it would have on their lives. All three teachers' unions have voted no, and the first thing this brings up is that no one should have the right to vote on other people's work conditions. It should be a democratic right that if one is not impacted in the same way by something, one should not have the right to force other people to accept it.

The Bill is negative overall. It compounds and continues the two-tier pay inequality for all young public servants - again, some more than others, but all. How disgraceful it is that this is being maintained. The Minister's speaking note reads, "There is also a legal entitlement to that restoration, since the FEMPI Acts which significantly reduced ... pay and pension entitlements were predicated on a financial emergency of unprecedented severity from which we have now, thankfully, emerged". How, then, is there any justification for maintaining those austerity measures that were placed on public sector workers? There is none whatsoever. No change can occur to heal the real wound that has been inflicted on young workers on unequal pay for the whole three years of this agreement, and the Minister's words are no justification for maintaining that. The saying, "Never waste a good crisis" is being implemented.

The so-called pension levy, which was meant to be a temporary measure for the bailout, is not removed; it remains, and there is no prospect it will ever go. It will therefore continue to reduce the pay of most public servants. What is particularly nefarious about the Bill is that punishment is being meted out to all those who did not accept the deal, the three teachers' unions in particular. I love the language in the briefing document. This is classic "Yes Minister" stuff where it reads:

Q.2 How are public servants who do not sign up [to be] treated?

To incentivise adherence to the collective approach, the Bill provides for less favourable terms for public servants who are not covered.

Did anyone ever hear of such a formulation? An incentive is meant to be attractive. The briefing document further outlines what will happen to those who do not agree to the deal when it states:

(a) Slower pay restoration ...

(b) The suspension of [increments] (up to [2021]);

(c) A lower entry threshold for ASC.

In other words, they will pay more of this so-called pension levy that was introduced as a temporary measure. I remember it because I was teaching at the time it was introduced. This is outrageous. Teachers will now be punished, have their increments frozen and continue at a higher pension levy. This is an absolute attack on the right to be in a union, on democratic rights and on the right of people to decide their own fate. People in other unions should therefore take note of this. The whole common basic scale has been completely upended, and this division will now be maintained. People will be on different rates and will have different punishments meted out to them.

Did the Minister of State ever wonder why it is teachers who seem continually to vote against these measures? Perhaps the wider public does not understand. In this instance all three teacher unions voted against. Does the Minister of State remember? The Government was happy to try to isolate the ASTI in the previous agreement, but now all three teacher unions are at one on this, and the reason is that teachers have been more impacted by pay inequity. Young teachers appointed after 2011 have already lost over €26,000 in earnings that they would have had if they were on the same scale as their pre-2011 counterparts, but they have also lost earnings due to the other pay cuts that their senior colleagues faced as well. This is the so-called locked-out generation, young so-called professionals - young workers - who cannot afford to pay rent, buy a house, get a mortgage or do many other things previous generations were able to do. It is an infliction of worse conditions on young people and the kind of policy that resulted in the revolt that led to Jeremy Corbyn's massive increase in the vote share for the Labour Party in Britain. The Government should take note of this.

I was talking to a young teacher on the protest outside before this debate. He made the point that teachers are always concerned if they take any industrial action about what will happen to the children. We asked him about children that he might like to have at some stage in the future. Did they not count as well? I believe that parents and the public in general understand this. They understand why teachers and others are not willing to accept unequal pay. To teachers I say stick to your guns, organise and put on massive pressure. This Government is hanging on by a thread, as we saw over the weekend. It is on its last legs. The arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is mortally wounded. They are both at one on this issue, of no recovery for workers. They are unanimous about that. Massive pressure can be put on Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour, members of which are not even here tonight, to reverse this.

The Government wonders why there is a huge shortage of teachers. It is because their choice is to fight or to emigrate. Why would any young person who went to huge trouble to get qualifications, not just primary degrees and HDips but also masters and all kinds of other qualifications that teachers now routinely acquire, stay and put up with this when they could be amply well paid in other countries? What will we do about the brain drain? We have already heard reports about unqualified teachers teaching in schools while qualified teachers have had to emigrate because they cannot live in this country. Rents in my constituency are now routinely €1,600 to €2,000 per month. How could any young teacher afford to pay that, or any other young worker for that matter?

In his opening remarks the Minister said there had been considerable sacrifices for a decade of austerity, a lost decade for many people, that had reaped benefits for the economy. Yet, this is the reward that workers get. He also said that our teachers, nurses, gardaí and other public servants and their retired counterparts are deserving of the pay and pension restoration set out in the Bill. However, teachers will not get any restoration from the Bill, so that was a little disingenuous of the Minister. He did not even make reference to the fact that people who do not accept the tyranny, the diktat, that is handed down will not get anything and will be punished. People should take a lesson from this. In the past, if workers did not agree with a pay deal, they simply did not get the pay deal. Now not only do they not get the pay deal, but they also get other things taken from them for daring not to agree to the pay deal. This is the new neo-liberal normal in this country. We need to build a political alternative and a trade union alternative. It is not a good reflection on the trade union leadership that it has accepted such an erosion of long-standing pay and conditions and inflicted that on a new generation.

It has become clear that we are moving on from the previous easy target that was young workers. What is happening now is that the Government and the establishment have decided to target older workers by going after their pensions. This is a very sinister development that should give everybody cause for alarm. I hope the three teacher unions will come together to decide what united action they can take to address this. They have every reason to hold their nerve. As I said, a general election is unquestionably on the cards soon. The unions should make political capital while they can.

It is important to bear in mind the background to these proposals. In order to bail out banks and developers, the State initiated a wave of cuts to public services and waged an unremitting war on public sector workers. Overnight, following the bank bailout and the advent of the troika, the narrative became that the great public enemies were the teacher, the nurse, the firefighter and the workers in these Houses. Their wages and conditions and their pension entitlements became the obsession of economists and commentators. The causes of the crisis were apparently forgotten as the State focused its attention on reducing the wages and pensions of public servants. In fact, it savaged the earnings and pensions of workers and retired workers and slashed the pay and pension entitlements of new recruits.

Several different figures have been offered, but one estimate is that the State took €1.4 billion from public servants every year since the crisis began. These savings were achieved through four waves of austerity measures. The first was the 11 month pay freeze introduced in September 2009 under financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation. National agreement pay increases of 3.5% due in September 2009 and 2.5% due in June 2010 were abandoned under the Towards 2016 partnership agreement. The second austerity measure, introduced in March 2009, was the pension levy or pension related deduction, PRD. This levy is deducted at source and returned to the Exchequer, thereby constituting a reduction in gross pay. Higher rates were applied to the higher paid, but the average deduction was 7% of total salary. To give an idea of its scale, the PRD has yielded savings of more than €900 million, or almost €1 billion, for the Exchequer in each full year since it was introduced. The third austerity provision came in the form of a second FEMPI Act enacted in December 2009. This introduced a comprehensive pay cut from 1 January 2010 which meant a clerical officer on average pay lost €1,500 per annum. The fourth austerity measure was achieved by way of the Haddington Road agreement, which brought further cuts in public service pay and pensions and a raft of productivity measures, including additional hours valued at 6% in pay terms. This agreement introduced increment deferrals, overtime rate changes and changes in flexible work practices.

As well as the four waves of cuts, the Government restructured two levies, the income levy and the health levy, into a new universal social charge, USC. A worker on €37,000 a year, which is the maximum rate of pay for a clerical officer in the Civil Service, now pays almost €1,400 a year in USC. The lower paid took a huge hit as a consequence of this charge.

During the austerity years, successive Governments cut public service employment across the board, with numbers falling from a high of 320,000 to less than 290,000 in 2015. This reduction was achieved via the blunt instruments of a recruitment moratorium, incentivised retirement and voluntary departures. Overall, there was a 10% reduction in jobs across all the public sectors. These cuts have resulted in huge income losses for all public and civil servants, but particularly those on lower incomes of between €20,000 and €37,000. In addition, those still in work must do longer hours, have less flexibility, a larger workload and fewer supports.

As a result of these measures, the public service pay bill has fallen dramatically, from more than €17 billion before the recession to €14 billion net in 2014. As well as the impact on workers, this has also impacted the economy by way of the loss of discretionary income and savings. Despite propaganda to the contrary, the remuneration levels of lower-paid public servants in this country are, according to statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, in line with or below the average pay of those elsewhere in Europe. Moreover, OECD statistics published in December 2014 show that the size of the Irish public sector, at 18.4% of total employment, is not far from the average level across all member countries. Official figures show that 45% of all public servants in Ireland earn less than €45,000 a year, while 68% earn less than €50,000. This is contrary to the impression given that the majority of public servants are slán abhaile and highly paid.

Other emergency measures that are of continuing concern to public servants were implemented in the same austerity period. One of these relates to starting pay for new entrants in the public sector. In 2010, the then Minister for Finance determined, unilaterally and without the necessity of introducing legislation, to reduce pay scales for all new entrants by 10% on all points of the scale. This meant that from 2011 onwards, workers entered their pay scales at least two points below those applying to their pre-2011 colleagues. The workers concerned are, therefore, behind where they would otherwise have been on the scales while progressing through their increments. This effect was compounded in 2012 by the unilateral abolition of universal allowances for new entrants. Given that these allowances applied to all members of the relevant grade or category, they were, in effect, a part of basic pay. For example, prison officers or firefighters recruited from 2011 were not only placed on a scale that was longer than that applicable to colleagues recruited before them, they also had to go without a significant universal allowance which their colleagues retained. This issue has been largely resolved through negotiations under the auspices of the Lansdowne Road agreement. However, the post-2013 solution to the 2010 alteration of scales for new entrants to the public service means that such workers remain on scale points behind those that applied previously.

In 2013, the Haddington Road agreement reduced the pay of public servants earning above €65,000 a year and imposed additional unremunerated working hours on employees. On average, an additional 2.5 working hours were added to the working week of all public sector workers. The issue of unremunerated working time remains unresolved. While the effect of the increase varies depending on pre-existing working hours, all public servants who worked fewer than 39 hours per week experienced an unpaid increase in their working time. There is an estimated further €430 million in savings from increases in productivity deriving from the almost 15 million additional working hours and a range of other reform measures.

It is clear, bearing in mind all these cuts, that when the Minister and others tell us how much they are increasing the pay of public sector workers, it is akin to a burglar offering to return a portion of the stolen goods. Nobody in that situation would say thanks to the burglar for giving back what had been robbed. That is why I do not welcome this Bill in its totality. The theft of workers' pay and pensions was not negotiated but, rather, imposed by means of extraordinary legislative measures passed in this House. We cannot, apparently, pass emergency legislation to deal with the housing crisis, health crisis or climate chaos but, by God, we could do so when it came to cutting the pay and conditions of nurses, teachers, firefighters and clerical workers across the service. Years after this Government told us we are in recovery, the economy is booming and this is a great country in which to do business, we continue with the charade that there is, in fact, a financial emergency, but one which only requires the theft of pay and pensions from public sector workers to address it.

The Government cannot legitimately claim that the recent pay and stability deal somehow offered workers restitution by way of a settlement that was voluntarily agreed. In fact, the so-called deal was presented as the only game in town. If they chose to reject it, workers were told, then the Government would continue to wield the big stick of FEMPI in order to impose a settlement. The proof is in the pudding in this regard because that is exactly what is happening to teachers. This is supposed to be a democratic country but here we have legislation that effectively removes the right to free collective bargaining from trade unions. Even though a majority of unions accepted the deal, this Bill effectively punishes those who did not. It allows any rise offered to some workers to be withdrawn from workers who rejected a pay deal. It copperfastens pay apartheid in the public sector and makes no reference to how and when workers, teachers, for instance, might expect to earn the same pay as colleagues for doing the same work. Nurses are particularly affected by this. These provisions bed down the inferior pensions of new recruits and, years after the crisis has passed, make permanent the various emergency measures in respect of pension entitlements. These measures seek to normalise the financial emergency, just as the Taoiseach is attempting to normalise the emergency in housing.

We will have to restate what the Taoiseach sees as a republic of opportunity to see it as a republic of opportunists that favours former taoisigh, Deputies and Ministers who will receive a handsome pension increase with new legislation to be introduced. A lot has been left unsaid about the FEMPI legislation and we will be introducing amendments to this Bill.

I, too, have huge doubts and reservations around this and will be opposing the Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017. It is hugely ironic. When I joined the post office in 1979 as a post office clerk, within one year equal pay was introduced for women in the workplace. That legislation came in from Europe as equal pay for work of equal value. Decades on, because the EU banks operated in a loose manner and the EU insisted that Ireland pay for the bank bailout, it is ironic that it is the public sector workers and workers who are paying for that bailout through the measure of unequal pay for public sector workers.

Nearly €3 billion has been robbed from the pockets of public sector workers over recent years since the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation was introduced. It has affected some 300,000 public sector workers and this Bill does not do anything to address unequal pay for those workers, especially those in the three teachers' unions, the Defence Forces and nurses.

This legislation affects the public service stability agreement. It will compound the continuing inequality for post-2011 public service staff, including teachers, and it will lead to the net pay for most public servants being reduced through the conversion of the pension levy into a permanent pension contribution. That pension levy was temporary. It does not go into the pension. The way it is presented to the public is a misnomer. It goes back to the Government.

The three teachers' unions rejected the public service stability agreement. They did so mainly because it does not reverse pay inequality and specifically because it provides that no change can occur to deliver equal pay for the duration of the agreement. Teachers who were appointed in 2011 have already lost more than €26,000 in earnings, in addition to the pay cuts imposed on the more senior colleagues. There is no doubt that this inequality in pay is one of the reasons for the current acute crisis in teacher supply. If passed in its current form, this legislation will be used to try to prevent teachers' unions from taking effective action to deliver equal pay during the lifetime of the public service stability agreement up to 2020. This is because of the statutes contained in the legislation around unions that do not assent to the public service stability agreement. Members of the unions that do not assent will, among other measures, have increments frozen until 2021 and will face the effective continuation of the pension levy for two extra years. The intention is to force the unions which did not accept the agreement to assent to it, ignore the democratic wishes of their members and abandon any effective campaign to progress the just cause of lower-paid teachers and lecturers. The legislation represents a fundamental attack on trade union rights. The democratic right of union members to engage in free collective bargaining has been undermined and the right of members to say no to an unjust agreement is being denied.

It should be noted that the legislation provides for the eventual full restoration of the inflated pensions of those who were responsible for the economic crash. Ministers, taoisigh such as Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern, and others will all receive increased pensions. This legislation, however, does not provide any pathway to equal pay for the lower-paid teachers and lecturers. I believe that the three teachers' unions are also looking at approaching the International Labour Organization on the increments freeze because it breaches the rights of free trade unions. This is in sections 21 and 23 which should be removed.

Nurses are affected worse with a starting salary of €28,600. Over the course of the past decade, the low pay has had the effect of undermining the profession. Between 2007 and 2011, the numbers in nursing have declined by 1,500 per year. In December 2007, a total of 39,006 full-time hours were worked and the most recent figures are 36,278. This includes 835 student nurses who are paid the minimum wage. The HSE has confirmed that in 2012, a total of 1,217 nurses graduated and 2,219 left the service. They most likely emigrated. In 2015, a total of 1,130 nurses graduated and 2,382 left the service. As for other therapy grades, nurses are required to have an honours degree and to work 39 hours per week, which is two hours more than the other grades, but they are paid approximately 20% less. This must be changed and we will bring forward amendments to the proposed legislation. The Government should look seriously at the equal pay issue and reinstate equal pay.

The fact that 90% of public pay will be restored based on the legislation is to be welcomed. The legislation will, however, compound and copperfasten the unequal two-tier system for new entrants. Nurses, gardaí and teachers in particular, and other hugely important front-line staff will not have proper pay restoration under the legislation. These public service workers deserve equal pay for equal work. Instead, inequality is built into the Bill through pay differentials. Those public sector workers who were employed after January 2011 will continue to be discriminated against. Such discrimination and inequality will have been legislated for by Government. The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland has calculated that teachers who were appointed in 2011 have already lost some €30,000 in earnings, in addition to the pay cuts that were also imposed on their more senior colleagues. Those who began teaching after February 2012 will earn nearly €100,000 less over a 40 year career than a teacher who began prior to 2011. One could make the comparison that if we told any new Deputies elected during the next election that they were to work for less pay than the quare fellas already here, there would be some row.

These losses mean that teachers will be paying well into their old age for the mistakes of the boom-bust economics of the past two decades. It is grossly unfair considering that the vast majority of them were students up until the economic downturn and did not benefit financially from the boom, nor did they contribute to the mistakes that caused such hardship.

Singling out new public service workers and front-line staff is deeply unfair, unjustified and economically damaging. There is no doubt that people who are on lower incomes are also spending a higher percentage of their direct earnings weekly than those who are better paid. The State and the economy generally benefits when these people are paid better. It is a win-win situation. I do not agree with the rationale of the State paying these workers less, no more than I agreed with the use of austerity to address financial problems. When times are difficult, investment by the State works better because it comes back in different ways.

Public servants will also have a lower entry threshold for the additional superannuation contribution. This is supposed to incentivise adherence to the terms of the agreement. It is a bizarre and perverse way of looking at this section of the Bill.

The Bill is punitive and is essentially an example of State coercion. It seeks to punish those new entrants to the public service, who are already discriminated against, for simply seeking to assert their rights through collective bargaining. These threats, and that is exactly what they are, will have the most severe effect on the same new and recent entrants to the public service such as gardaí, nurses and teachers who have suffered discrimination and pay inequality simply by virtue of the date they commenced their public service employment.

Pay cuts and unequal pay for equal work have been immensely damaging to morale within the public service, which is a big factor. God knows there are enough problems in Departments such as the Department of Justice and Equality without driving down morale even further by refusing to pay new entrants properly.

Poor morale in the teaching profession has the potential to be a huge problem and it may lead to a brain drain. One finds teachers going to countries where English is spoken, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and England, to earn a living and get a start in life. The proliferation of temporary contracts and precarious hours adds to the problem for those who do not have full-time contracts. Many new teachers who have been educated and trained in Ireland will go abroad which amounts to a waste of resources and a loss of talent.

According to the research, there is a direct correlation between teachers' pay and the quality of education in a country. Those countries which perform best in educational terms are those which attract the best students to teaching by offering them higher salaries and greater professional status. The pay cuts and inequality targeting new teachers will have a detrimental effect on the future quality of education in Ireland. The Bill compounds the problem. The teaching profession has been devalued, making it a less attractive prospect for intelligent, high-achieving young people who are considering their future career choices. We can say the same about new entrant gardaí, nurses and others in the public service. If a teacher is in the job for 20 or 30 years, he or she is very well paid. In fact, because they are so well paid, they are encouraged to stay there forever, even when they are burned out. We are not attracting those young people we need to revitalise the teaching profession and schools. More should be done to get new people in.

I do not know how nurses do it. My mother, who is 93, spent three months in hospital three years ago. My God, I could not believe how hard the nurses worked. They were just amazing. They were fantastic but we do not pay them enough and new people coming into the profession are not being treated fairly.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak tonight. Many Deputies have spoken about the inadequacies of the legislation, which need to be emphasised and emphasised again. Last week, we passed the Finance Bill in the House. Parts of the Bill and amendments to it were intended to address the appalling vista that AIB is going to pay no tax in the State for the next 20 years because it can write off its losses on foot of measures introduced and facilitated by the Government. It is galling for workers in the public sector who feel that it is precisely their pay cuts and the reductions in their terms and conditions of employment which were used to fund the bailout of that very same bank. As pensioners in the public sector pointed out to me recently, not only is AIB not paying any tax, it has paid increases to its staff. Public sector pensioners and workers consider those pay increases to have been funded at their expense. It is utterly galling.

While we are glad to see any pay restoration as, I am sure, are public sector workers after such a prolonged period of austerity, this is a partial not a full restoration. It is certainly not the pay rise which the current economic situation requires. Years ago, a nurse and a garda who got married would consider themselves to be made up. They were on the pig's back. That is not the case anymore. A nurse and a garda cannot even afford to rent in this city, never mind buy a house in the face of the cataclysmic price increases in the private housing market. Year on year, there have been increases in prices. It was 8% in 2015, 11.8% last year, 12.8% this year and the ESRI predicts that house prices will rise by a further 20% by 2020. Rents increased by over 11% this year and are now 23% ahead of the 2008 level. Somebody starting out in the public sector is not going to be able to put a roof over his or her head. A couple will not even be able to do it. If, God forbid, like many people who get together, they want to have a kid, their problems will really start. They will not be able to fund a crèche, the average weekly cost of which is €174 for one full-time place. We have to point these facts out as a starting point because that is the backdrop to the pay and conditions we expect our public sector workers to endure. In contrast with the spiralling cost of living, the provisions in the Bill are being offered on a piecemeal basis. While 90% sounds good, we should be clear that it is over four years and will not be complete until 2021. God knows what prices will be at that stage.

There are a number of very problematic measures in the Bill, as has been pointed out. It fails to reverse the inequality introduced by FEMPI for new entrants. It proposes significant sanctions for members of unions who do not vote in favour of it and it proposes an additional pension contribution for public servants which is, in essence, a permanent pay cut. As such, we are certainly of the view that sections 21 and 33 should be removed from the Bill. Some trade unions have clearly been bullied into accepting the terms because of the chilling effect of a sanction freezing increments if they do not vote in favour of the deal. Obviously, their members are feeling the pinch and need their pay restored after enduring the austerity of the past number of years. However, I am glad that not all unions have backed down.

I salute the efforts of the three teacher unions which voted against the deal and publicly stated their opposition to the Bill. They have rightly pointed out that the legislation contains no reversal of the cuts to the starting salaries of their members hired after 2011. In contrast, it reverses the cuts for Members here, ex-taoisigh and so on. Not only does the inbuilt inequality remain; the unions and their members will be tied into those terms for the duration of the deal, namely, until 2021. This is a serious curtailment of the freedom of unions to negotiate on behalf of their members. In addition, the punitive powers contained in the Bill for those unions which vote against the Bill are an attack on the democratic wishes of union members and their freedom to bargain collectively, which is thereby undermined. That is not acceptable.

Many points have been made on the inequality new teachers are expected to accept where, let us be clear, they can even manage to achieve a full-time position. Achieving a full-time job comes after years of study and, probably, after years of being kicked around between schools on part-time contracts. It is unfair that they are disadvantaged. There is little point in us crowing about economic growth if we do not make significant investments in education, health and social care. That means paying workers fairly.

I will not repeat the points which have been made except to say that the starting salary for teachers recruited after 2011 is just over €30,000 while the average industrial wage is €37,000. On the current teacher pay scale, it takes six years to get to the average industrial wage. For other low-paid civil servants, it is even worse. They need to advance 16 increments on the payscale which is, in effect, a 16 year wait for a living wage. We cannot let the opportunity pass without highlighting the number of our public servants who rely on family income supplement. It is an absolutely ridiculous situation that we have to dip into the social welfare pot because we are not paying our public sector workers enough. The economic impact of that is also ridiculous. These are the people who go to local hairdressers and shops and boost the economy further.

I do not have time to go into detail, but the position of nurses is the worst of all. They have a starting salary of €28,600. Low pay in that profession has gutted it. Recruitment numbers are being wiped out by the number of highly qualified and dedicated nurses who have been driven out of the country by longer hours and lower pay. Countries like the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia are queuing up to employ our nurses who have been trained here. The gutting that has taken place over the last two years is ridiculous. We should emphasise the point that these professions are dominated by women.

We waffle on about gender inequality but these are the ones who have been hardest hit. As our qualified nurses are being sought elsewhere and have moved about because of the low pay here, we have the double whammy of the Health Service Executive, HSE, being obliged to recruit nurses from other countries, in the main from the developing world, in a practice that is frowned upon by the International Labour Organization as unethical. We do not have a shortage of personnel here; we just have forced them out through low pay and then we recruit from other countries where they do have a shortage of medical personnel. It is unethical and unacceptable. The Bill will have to be heavily amended to adjust the problems caused by FEMPI.

This is a financial Bill with the stated aim of delivering an orderly exit from the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 and a return to normal industrial and business relationships. It provides for pay restoration and some lessening of the public service pension levy. This is welcome when it applies particularly to most public service workers starting on 1 January 2018. It is interesting and extraordinary that the Labour Party has not presented a speaker on this Bill tonight.

The process of unwinding FEMPI for professional fees and other payments reduced during austerity years will not commence until 2019 and only then in return for contractual and structural reform, together with productivity and service improvement in line with Government policy. In the health sector this applies to general practitioners, GPs, and pharmacists. This is neither an orderly nor a timely unwinding of FEMPI in respect of GP and pharmacy fees. In that regard the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, intends to undertake a process of engagement with relevant representative bodies during 2018 prior to starting the unwinding of FEMPI for GPs and pharmacists in 2019, which may not affect their fees and payments until 2020. This is entirely unacceptable. There is a clear pathway for salaried public servants but not for contract holders such as GPs and pharmacists. Additionally, the setting and varying of fees for contract holders who were subject to reductions under FEMPI will enshrine FEMPI-style legislation in an alternative statute. This is also unacceptable. Thus FEMPI-style legislation will remain on the Statute Book ad infinitum.

Varying the fees can be done by ministerial order, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, based on affordability and value for money, supposedly to protect the taxpayer through fluctuations in our economic cycle. Such reduction in fees can be introduced in the future, following consultation but without negotiation with the contractors involved. Any restoration of these future reductions will have to go through the same tortuous process we are belatedly going through at present. GPs and pharmacists have been subjected to horrendous FEMPI reductions and the unwinding of FEMPI is now being done in a disorderly manner and is putting pressure on those professionals.

No GP could plan his or her future on the basis that his or her practice income could be reduced by the Minister of the day as he or she sees fit. Any unwinding of FEMPI for GPs will not commence until 2019 or most likely 2020. This is completely unacceptable. GPs were disproportionately affected by FEMPI as the cuts were applied to the gross public turnover of the practice fee, which included all the expenses incurred in running a practice. The cuts were very deep: 38% reduction in the fees paid to a GP to run the practice. This has had a crippling effect on general practice as a discipline and as a career option for young GPs. They are not entering the profession and the principal reason for that is the disproportionate application of FEMPI to GP fees.

GPs have already delivered productivity and to ask them to increase productivity in connection with the unwinding of FEMPI is completely unacceptable. They have delivered this productivity by increased workload and delivering complex care while taking on greater responsibility for chronic care which is now being shifted from the hospital service to the community. GPs are looking after 50% more patients with medical cards than they did when the FEMPI cuts were introduced. The amount of work now expected of general practice has reached saturation point, due to transfer of care from hospital to primary care and the complex needs of an ageing population being looked after in the community. Productivity also has been increased because we are looking after patients who should be looked after in secondary care.

The "Prime Time" programme last week demonstrated the difficulties of public patients accessing secondary services, which results in increased GP visits and increased responsibility in looking after these patients in primary care while they wait to access necessary secondary care. GPs who were disproportionately affected by FEMPI are now being additionally disadvantaged by having FEMPI unwound on the long finger and having unacceptable conditions applied to the restoration process by tying its unwinding to contract negotiations. The Sláintecare report proposed a decisive shift towards primary care and social care led by general practice. This will require a significant increase in GP numbers if entitlement to universal primary care is to be introduced over the next few years. Young GPs will not sign up to a contract based on the existing financial model that exists under the present contract and the FEMPI arrangements, which are hobbling general practice.

This model of a contract operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year in which the GP pays for everything and takes full financial responsibility is broken. The method of partially unwinding FEMPI enshrined in this Bill will ensure that not only will young GPs continue emigrate but those who are away definitely will not return. Our ageing population of GPs will retire long before they would wish. More than 600 GPs are over the age of 60, that is one quarter of the workforce, and will retire in less than a decade. This uncontrolled and unacceptable unwinding of FEMPI will cripple our already crumbling general practice network. This is at a time when the HSE predicts that we will face a shortfall of 2,000 GPs by 2025. New services cannot be funded by FEMPI restoration, as the financial model is now unsustainable and broken. The Minister cannot expect GPs to accept the unwinding of FEMPI for contractual services which they already give and productivity they already provide.

In Ireland, 3.5% of health expenditure is spent on general practice. In the UK the percentage is 8.1% and it proposes to move to 11%. Ireland is losing its GPs to countries which have better resources and better health services where they have better job satisfaction, career prospects, training opportunities and working conditions. One arm of the State is proposing that we expand GP care, following the Sláintecare report, while another arm is making it financially impossible for GPs to continue in practice or to enter the service.

This Bill gives effect to the public service stability agreement. The three teachers' unions have voted against this agreement because it failed to deal adequately with new entrant pay. This Bill proposes significant sanction for members of unions who have not signed up to this agreement, involving the removal of their increments and the maintenance of higher pension contributions at the level of the current pension levy. These sanctions should be removed by way of amendment to the Bill in order that inequality in pay is not compounded.

Thus, sections 21 and 33 should be removed from the Bill. The removal of these sections will not interfere with the implementation of the agreement for those who have accepted the public service stability agreement. This is driving our young graduates out of the country. It is driving them into financial difficulties with housing, jobs and job security. It is really unacceptable that professionals should be subject to this FEMPI unwinding, which makes no sense whatsoever. Certainly as it relates to general practice, if this is how the Government will unwind FEMPI, it will finally cripple general practice.

The Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017 seeks to give legislative effect to some of the provisions of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, which is an extension of the Lansdowne Road agreement. The Bill also provides for the unwinding of financial emergency measures on public service pay and pensions on a phased basis. The justification for the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 was the economic crisis and financial emergency which beset the country. By the Government's own pronouncement the financial emergency has now passed. The Government is shortchanging a lot of people. I was here when FEMPI was passed and I probably voted for it.

I did and fair enough. We had to. The Government will not catch people out like that again. The emergency has passed. The Minister for Finance and others were telling the whole country and the world during the last election about the recovery, but it forgot to think the recovery did not go outside the Red Cow. The recovery must be afraid of the cow. It must think it is a bull and it cannot get out past it, but it cannot get down the country anyway.

As I said, we must deal with ordinary people who are putting their shoulder to the wheel when asked. They have made sacrifices and what are they getting? They are getting a slap in the face and are told to get lost and eat cake. That is what they are being told, as they were told by the famous lady across the pond.

Deputy Harty has eloquently spoken about the GPs and what is happening there with the drain of GPs and the frustration. The Government must remember all GPs are self-employed people who not only under the hippocratic oath do their best to cure people's health and look after people, but also employ a plethora of people and they pay rates, wages and insurance. Deputy Harty got elected on the no doctor no village campaign and he is dead right. What do we want? Do we want people to die on the sides of the road? Deputy Harty gave the figures on the numbers of people being treated by GPs instead of in accident and emergency departments. Accident and emergency departments are inaccessible and the Government does not want people in there and that is quite obvious. GPs pay staff, including nurses and receptionists. They have all types of services, such as chiropodists, and they provide a great service. They need to be supported before they are all gone.

We know what the Minister said at the last election. The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009 to 2015 have been used to cut public sector workers' pay and pensions as well as those of general practitioners, as I said. I also want to mention local authority workers and ordinary workers in the HSE and Departments. They are getting the brunt of it, and I salute them for how they have championed it. Many of them have left. Many of them are on family income supplement. I spoke to a man this evening who is an excellent local authority worker in Clonmel whose wife is a nurse. They are fleeced and it is not fair. They put up with it for a while for the emergency but the emergency has gone. The Government still has a punitive tax regime brought in for an emergency, and for which we voted, but we have been double-crossed and the people have been double-crossed. It is time the Government sat up and listened. Deputy Wallace said that type of apartheid system would not be accepted here. We met teachers this evening who are protesting.

I also blame the trade unions. They have a responsibility. They got into bed with the Government and negotiated the deals by which they knew their influence would be less than before. They have to take some of the blame themselves. The head guys there are not badly paid either. Let us be fair and honest. We vote for something and support it when it is needed, but we will not keep supporting something that is not needed. It is a con job and the people are being conned.

The ordinary workers, whom we expect in the storms to grit the roads in the frost and to keep accident and emergency departments open, are not getting a fair crack of the whip and they are tired. They are tired of waiting. I said before, they were waiting in the long grass for the Government at the last election and they were. They got stuck under the tufts of grass like the hares and hid and survived, but they are coming at the Government again because they are not fools. They can see what is going on. They have given the service and they have done the State some service and now it is time to treat them with some modicum of respect.

The continued use of emergency legislation in the absence of an emergency would amount to an abuse of Government power - it does amount to an abuse of power - and it is disproportionate. One example of the way FEMPI has led to serious consequences in terms of the health infrastructure is the cuts imposed on general practitioners. These were savage cuts of 35% or 40%. No one could sustain that. The National Association of General Practitioners, NAGP, has called on the Government to reverse urgently the FEMPI cuts in general practice. The Government is not listening. It speaks about negotiating a new contract with the two doctors' organisations. The contract is 40 years old. No Third World country would have a contract that old and out of date. The Government has been talking about negotiating it for the longest time but when will it do it? They have been disproportionately cut. I salute the GPs, particularly those in rural towns and the few left in rural villages, because they have kept the service. They have kept faith with the people. They are providing a service and getting damn little for it, only cuts and cuts.

The NAGP has also said that FEMPI was a key factor in the high rate of emigration among GPs, as the profession is not now viable in Ireland. That is a very telling statement. Huge money from their families, taxpayers and the Government is invested in GP training and what are they doing? They are going off to foreign lands and it is a shame and a pity. We should have some way to attract them back, but they will not come back if it is not attractive.

We see this every day in rural Ireland and we cannot get doctors or GPs to apply for practices. This is what the HSE tells us and what it wants. It wants to get rid of rural GPs. It tells us it advertises and cannot get people to apply. It suits the HSE. It is a big monopoly that does not care about rural Ireland. It wants to see us without a doctor. It wants to see us in pain. People are going blind and we are bussing them up to the North to get treatment. People cannot walk because of their hips. There will be some amount of people bouncing into the polling booths at the next election to get rid of the Government, because they will be able to see the ballot paper and they will have thrown away the sticks, and they will be mad to jump into a car to be brought to vote, and they know how they will vote and it will not be for Fine Gael.

The Labour Party was mentioned. Cá bhfuil siad? It is like Cill Chais. Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad? Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan Páirtí an Lucht Oibre? It is not even here for the debate. It is irrelevant now. I have said for the past five years it was interested in nothing but the liberal agenda. We cannot feed people with the liberal agenda and its members found out that to their cost. They cannot pay the mortgage or house the people, so where are they? We had a debate on rural crime recently and there was not one Labour Party Deputy here for it. We have a debate tonight on this issue-----

Maybe you should focus on the legislation.

I am, but I am saying they should focus on it too, seeing as they were in government and they dosed us with it. What did you say?

Give the poor old Labour Party a break.

Good man, all right, I will. They are getting a break and they will get a longer break than they are looking for if they are not careful. The Labour Party Deputies are not here for these Bills or debates. They were not here last week either for the debate on rural crime. It was a proud party founded in Clonmel in Tipperary, but God help us.

As I said, the NAGP chief executive has stated that FEMPI is driving GPs abroad in search of better terms and conditions. They can get them and they are over here recruiting all of the time. The previous Taoiseach made many commitments, and even had posters and billboards saying he was going to get rid of the trolley crisis. However, we cannot get doctors and the doctors we have here are mistreated. Go into any accident and emergency department and one will see the mistreatment. We cannot get the doctors and the trolleys are longer and there are more trolleys than ever. There were 9% more managers in the HSE in 2016 compared to 2015. We need to be fair and respectful to the people on the front line who put their shoulders to the wheel. There are 9% more managers. What are they managing? Chaos, the vast majority of the time. We have ward managers, floor managers, bed managers, linen managers and hygiene managers and they do not have pillows, pillowcases or blankets in Clonmel accident and emergency department most of the time. We have all of these managers and what are they managing? Absolute chaos, with trolleys out the door and that is the way the Government seems to want it, but we do not have the doctors or the nurses.

The Minister tells us about growth of 6% or 12% and that we are the fastest growing economy. People are getting sick of seeing this. They do not see it in their pockets. The Government does not seem to realise these people are the movers and shakers. When they have a decent bit of money they spend it locally. They spend it on their families. They spend it on food, services in their houses and improving their lot. They regenerate the rural economy. This is a false economy.

Something like this cannot be kept in place when its time has elapsed. The dogs in the street know that. It is false, misleading and trickery of the highest order to keep that legislation in place. This Bill does little or nothing to deal with that. It must deal with it because it is totally unfair and morally wrong. The Minister is empty of empathy for lower-paid people, the GPs and those in other sectors such as council workers. These are ordinary people.

Gardaí are also being mistreated. The assistant commissioner could decide last night on a whim that there was no more money to pay the gardaí overtime until next January. The Taoiseach this morning was not sure whether it was this year's pay, next year's pay or what pay they are getting. He did not seem to care either. That instruction was sent out. It is only when there are no gardaí to mind the gate here that the Government will start thinking about the gardaí. It all appears to be on the Government's terms. It is what suits the Government, not what suits Johnny, Mary, Tommy, Biddy or anybody else in the country.

There are about 45 minutes remaining. It would be great if we could complete the Second Stage of this legislation but there are three more speakers before I call the Minister. The next speaker is Deputy Healy.

The Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill is anti-trade union legislation. It includes oppressive measures which are not included in the recent public service pay agreement. It also includes punishments for trade unionists whose unions do not agree to the new industrial relations agreement proposed by their employers. Among these is an increment freeze which is essentially a punishment pay cut, the industrial relations equivalent of a punishment beating. How can members of the Independent Alliance, including the Ministers of State, Deputy Finian McGrath and Deputy John Halligan, support this attack on the rights of free trade unions? I will propose amendments to delete the increment freeze and other punishment measures. This Bill is a breach of the freedom of association under the International Labour Organization conventions.

I received an email today from a trade union activist who rightly pointed out that this Bill is an inducement for workers to leave and remain outside trade unions. He refers to Part 1, section 3 and Part 1, section 3(6) of the Bill. He says that in that circumstance if at least one of the recognised trade unions or staff associations notifies to the Workplace Relations Commission its assent to the agreement in writing then a public servant in that grade or category who is not a member of a union will not be deemed a non-covered public servant and will escape the punishment measures. He went on to say that it is easy to envisage a situation where one union assents to the agreement and another does not. The direct implication is that members of the non-assenting union can simply leave their union and so escape the punishments being meted out to members of that union. He makes the point that this is a direct financial inducement in legislation to trade union members to leave their union or, looked at another way, blackmail threatened against those who choose to remain. He notes that it is also, in some cases, a contractual inducement in terms of accelerating contracts of indefinite duration which may be withdrawn as part of the punishments, as has been inflicted recently on members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, ASTI.

A number of unions are opposed to the measures in the Bill. The Teachers' Union of Ireland, TUI, has asked members to contact their public representatives about it. I received a letter today from a member of the TUI and I will read it into the record. It states:

I am requesting that you, as a public representative in my constituency, seek amendments to the Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017 to remove the unacceptable threats it contains. ... This Bill represents an oppressive effort by Government to coerce compliance with a national agreement that, in its current form, leaves gross injustice intact in terms of a continuing regime of pay inequality for those who entered the profession since 1 January 2011. The three main teachers' unions have voted against the public service stability agreement in national ballots. The main reason in each case is the acceptance that the agreement would halt progress in the campaign for pay equality for a further three years. ... The punitive draconian consequences for members of unions not covered by the agreement mapped out in this Bill are disproportionate and unprecedented. They include a freeze on increments for three years and a nine month delay of pay restoration measures. These threats would have the most severe effect on the same new and recent entrants to the public service who have suffered discrimination and pay inequality by virtue simply of the date that they commenced their public service employment. ... As my local representative I urge you to reject the oppressive approach set out in the Bill and urge that you seek amendments that remove these unacceptable threats.

Basically, this Bill provides for a two-tier pay structure that discriminates against public servants who started employment after 1 January 2011. This has created a huge recruitment and retention difficulty in various areas of the public service, including the health service and education. It affects nurses, doctors, teachers, gardaí and public servants who commenced employment since 1 January 2011.

It is important to note that the attacks on trade unionists who are not party to the public service stability agreement are not in the trade union agreement itself. They are only in this Bill. This is an attempt by the Government to blackmail Deputies into supporting an attack on the right to free trade unions and the right to freedom of association under the International Labour Organization's conventions. The Minister says the Bill represents a complete unwinding of emergency measures. Does that mean this anti-trade union Bill is a model for future permanent industrial relations legislation?

The failure to repeal the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013 power to certify a financial emergency every June retains the possibility of new emergency pay and pension cuts being enacted in new FEMPI legislation. A number of unions have sought to have the sanctions against uncovered employees removed. This Bill is fundamentally flawed in this respect. The Government must withdraw the anti-trade union sections of the Bill, including the punishments or sanctions sections.

Of course, the Bill provides for pay increases for those who are already very well paid, including Members of the Oireachtas, and for significant pension increases for 30 former Ministers and taoisigh. In fact, it provides for an increase of €15,000 per year in pensions to the former taoisigh, Mr. Bertie Ahern and Mr. Brian Cowen, and slightly smaller increases for other former taoisigh. The former Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, will have a pension of €152,000 per year. On the other hand, new entrants to the public service will not get a pay increase of even 1 cent.

This is significant and vicious discrimination against low-paid public servants. I will be proposing an amendment to bring about pay equality between all public servants.

There is no proposal in this Bill to improve the atrocious pension scheme imposed on new entrants. It would be illegal in the private sector because there is no effective employer contribution. On the other hand, former taoisigh and Ministers who already have significant pensions are entitled to significant increases as high as €15,000 per year while pay increases are available for Deputies and Senators.

The other aspect of this Bill is the question of the emergency. In the explanatory memorandum, the Minister speaks about a full unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI, Acts through this measure. This is, of course, incorrect. The Bill fails to repeal subsection (2) of section 12 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013. This section, which enables the Government to certify the continuation of a financial emergency before 30 June of each year, remains. This allows the Government to continue retaining a portion of the private property of pensioners and even to bring in new pension cuts. This is despite the fact that the former Minister for Finance confirmed on a number of occasions, for example when speaking before the Committee on Budget Oversight, that the emergency is over. The former Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, also declared that the financial emergency was over. However, this section of the FEMPI legislation of 2013 still remains in force in accordance with this Bill. I appeal to Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil to stop the attacks on the rights of free trade unions, to withdraw the punishment sections in this Bill, to end the injustice caused to new entrants and to end the financial emergency by repealing the relevant section of the 2013 Act. If these amendments are not made during the progress of this Bill through the House, particularly on Committee Stage, I will certainly oppose and vote against this Bill.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the public service stability agreement and on behalf-----

On a point of order, the Minister of State is not the final speaker.

No. The Ceann Comhairle has already clarified that.

We did not hear it. The Ceann Comhairle did not clarify with me. I was just checking, that is all.

I did not think I had to. The public service stability agreement is a welcome initiative because it starts and paves the way for the continuing unwinding of what has been a very difficult journey for our public servants, especially from 2009 to 2013. As Deputy Mattie McGrath noted, we had no choice but to introduce what were financial emergency measures. Deputy Calleary and others have been very responsible in their contributions and have acknowledged the actual state of the country at the time the financial emergency measures were introduced while others, unfortunately, are looking backwards with some rose-tinted view. We must look back at the state of the country at the time. The wheels had literally come off the proverbial wagon and there was a need for our public servants to make a contribution above and beyond, which they did. It is also worth bearing in mind that this happened against the backdrop of being able to maintain continuing industrial peace in the country. In dealing with this legislation, it is important that we pay tribute to the public servants who kept the doors of our public services open in that intervening period, not just front-line services but back office services as well. Oftentimes, these are the hidden public servants within the public services. We need to acknowledge them for that. We are on a very clear road to recovery and we have all acknowledged this in the House. We need to make sure the sustainability we have in terms of where we are economically is measured, sustained and realistic.

This agreement and the legislation setting out the provisions for it are different for a number of reasons. First, it paves the way for a totally different climate of industrial relations between the Government and public servants in a way that may not have been done previously. I pay tribute to the responsible attitude and nature of the public service unions and the officials in my Department led by the Minister regarding what was quite a difficult backdrop. It is worth bearing in mind that the negotiations for this agreement which we are putting on a legislative footing as part of this legislation did not come about with, as we would have referred to previously, a thumping majority in the House. They came about with a careful and measured negotiated position led by the Minister with no small help from the main Opposition party, which has also shown responsibility about how this legislation has been brought to where it is today. Deputy Mattie McGrath rightly pointed out that there are some Opposition parties that did not even turn up for this debate. It tells us an awful lot about their commitment to the restoration of public service pay. The cheap seats in the Opposition and those who flunked their responsibility regarding providing a Government in this country have again regurgitated, as they have done in previous debates, the same old tired mantra about how there should be money for everything even though there might be a budget for nothing. This really is not what the people outside this House want to hear and it is certainly not something the public servants themselves want to hear.

I know this from personal experience because I was one of these newly qualified public servants in 2008 who went back and requalified and came out with many of my contemporaries to find a country that was banjaxed with little or no opportunities to get a job in the public service. During that period, we recognised that as newly qualified teachers, as I was, this was something that was going to be really difficult and painful but at the same time, we understood what we were getting into and that there would be a pathway to recovery once the economy began to recover. That pathway has been continued as part of the current agreement. The Minister has committed with the Department to continue discussions with those who are called the newly qualified to make sure a trajectory can be put in place during which that can be realised over time. It is not simplistic nor do I believe that anybody thinks it is simplistic, something that can just waved over or a place we can get to overnight. I do not think anybody really believes that. The most important thing that is believable is that there is a commitment from this Government and the Department in collaboration with the partnership model that is available with the unions to deal with this over time as the economy continues to grow. The continuing growth rates in the economy will be one of the main factors that will decide whether we are able to continue with agreements like this in the first instance. If we do not continue to have the rates of growth we have enjoyed over recent years, particularly in the recent past, we will not be in a position to deliver on the three years or subsequent to the three years which we are committing to in this legislation. That is very important.

It is also important to point out that it is not just the Government here providing restoration. Deputy Bríd Smith was right.

It is the only thing I agree with in her contribution. These are not pay rises; they are restorations. It is getting people back to a former situation over a period of time. That is not the only thing. There is also a major change to how we deal with superannuation, which also has to be recognised. The Minister said that in his opening remarks. It is a very welcome change because it makes the future pension requirements of public servants more sustainable. We will be able to budget for it, cost it and meet it. It was a looming problem for the Government for a period but, thanks to the work that has been done, which is enshrined in the Bill, we will be in a far stronger position to deliver it in future. There will be challenges ahead. As the agreement beds in and there are further negotiations and discussions, formal and informal, with the Government and Minister, there will be challenges. There is a strong blueprint now, however, to make sure we have sustainability into the future that gets us over this three-year hump and allows us to look at more ambitious programmes for public service pay restoration, in conjunction with the continued delivery of hours, extra work and responsibilities that are in place.

In addition, we will also grow our public services. The embargo is gone in many cases and we are able to reinstate people whose jobs could not be filled. The only reason we could do that is because we maintained industrial peace in our public services. I pay tribute to our public servants for that. As well as that, we were able to show the outside world, borrowers and lenders, that we were capable of keeping the doors of the country open and meet our international financial obligations. In that way, we made sure we could continue to borrow and access finances to keep our public services going.

The Bill is the next and very important step. There has been some delay in bringing it to the House, through no fault of the Department or the Minister, but it is a very important step. It is very important that the Bill is enacted before the end of the year because in doing so, it allows 1 January 2018 to happen in a completely different context from 1 January 2017. They are all very important. Deputies have said they will raise particular issues on Committee and Report Stages. They should bear in mind that it is a money Bill. The public servants who have signed up to it as part of the agreement are very anxious to make sure it is implemented. While there will always be challenges in legislation like this that unwinds some of the most difficult impositions by the State on public servants, it will never be idyllic overnight. However, it will certainly be a vast improvement on where we were. I urge Deputies to work with the Government, Minister and officials in the Department to make sure we can deliver on what is in the Bill in light of the continuing need for reform and continuing development of our public services. At the same time, we should make sure that we can show to the world that we have sound public services that are responsible and which always had the level of industrial peace their leadership in the unions maintained.

As a teacher, I encourage my former colleagues to look again at the agreement in place and to see what is on offer. I understand the difficulties and concerns, and I empathise with them because I am a teacher, but this is the best route available for teachers. Three unions are outside the framework of this agreement. When the legislation is passed, it will not mean the train leaves the station for people who want to demonstrate that they will adhere to the spirit of the agreement. As a teacher and somebody who knows the men and women on the front line who turn up every day and are really strong public servants, I encourage newly qualified teachers and those with long service to work with the Department and their leadership to ensure continued industrial peace that allows us to grow the economy and deliver more reform and improvements like those in this Bill.

I have some time remaining so my colleague in the Department, the Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, will contribute on the Bill. I commend the Bill to the House. I compliment the work of the officials and the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, for the leadership he has provided and the unions for the responsible nature in which they have taken to the Bill. It is a very progressive step forward for Ireland and our continued economic growth. Ultimately, nobody in the House has a monopoly on concern for our public servants. We are all here trying to do our best by public servants because we are all public servants and we all work hand in glove with them. We want to make sure that what we do is realistic and sustainable and does not in any way heighten expectations we cannot deliver on. I add my support to the Bill.

It is a pleasure to be here. When this legislation started going through the House in 2008, Fianna Fáil was on this side of the House and we were on the Opposition side. The options were limited and we were going through a particularly scary period. Anyone who has heard me talk about where we have come from and where we are now will know I describe the last decade as the lost decade. It is not just the last decade. There were many difficulties for many people in that period. Some people emigrated but some people who were in the public service did not have the opportunity to emigrate. They had full-time, pensionable, permanent jobs and the FEMPI legislation had a severe impact on those people. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, has spoken about it. They got on with the job and have to be commended on that.

That lost decade was really difficult. How did that lost decade occur? It happened because our income collapsed. Our structures were based on income streams that were not consistent or sustainable. The one we all know best is stamp duty. It vanished overnight because the construction sector closed. We went from building 90,000 units to building fewer than 9,000. The stream of €8 billion from those units was gone in the space of 18 months, but our expenditure stream did not collapse. We still had public servants, civil servants and pensions to pay along with the social protection Bill. We hear a lot from our friends on the left about wealth redistribution and how it does not occur in the State. In 2011, when we were at the lowest point of our returns from income tax - it was €11 billion - the social protection budget was €21 billion. That is the extent to which we were caught by income versus expenditure. We had a number of remarkable years in which there were huge differences in expenditure and income. We had to borrow. The national debt increased by about €140 billion in that period. Everybody focuses on the bank debt of about €30 billion. In 2007, the national debt was about €40 billion and the banks cost an additional €30 billion. That is €70 billion. Over that ten-year period, the national debt increased by €140 billion, which is an average of €14 billion a year. Its purpose was to keep the economy going. The average debt accumulated was €14 billion per annum for ten years but nobody wants to talk about that. Public servants and civil servants played their part by being responsible. They knew the difficulty we were in and they got on with it. That has to be said. Their payment was reduced. There was absolutely no option and they got on with it. They should be complimented because they worked harder, longer and better for less take-home pay.

I have just finished a period of flying around Europe to work on the bid for the European Banking Authority. Other countries are trying to make some of the changes that we have made in the past decade. Because we made those changes in the past decade, and could introduce a balanced and sustainable budget for 2018, we are now in a position to reverse the FEMPI cuts, to put that period behind us and move on, which is really remarkable.

We now move to the next stage which will be covered by the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. We have challenges ahead in that three-year period, but our structures are solid and secure, and have been tested. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, IFAC, today complimented the budget for 2018. Brexit is a major challenge. There is another challenge in the equity markets. If practically all the equity markets continue to make new records, a correction will come within the next two to three years. We are satisfied that we can afford to pay for it and therefore we will do it.

I wish to raise the issue of the FEMPI reversal in respect of the GPs' cuts. There is a real issue for the rural small practices. If it can possibly be looked at, we should look at it. I am not saying we can, but it is something we need to consider. We have issues in rural areas and this is something that will have an impact. We should consider it, if at all possible. As I said, our numbers are tight. We are looking at them and we need to consider these issues in the longer term to ensure we continue to have rural GP practices. I hear many people talking about the closure of rural Ireland; I absolutely dispute that, but this is an area we need to look at.

I remember having these conversations with Deputy Thomas Byrne when we were both in the other House. We moved from that space to where we are today. In this jurisdiction we are very slow to pay compliments to people who have stepped up. The Civil Service stepped up. Civil servants did not complain and go marching. They did not do what happened in other jurisdictions. As a result of that, I compliment all of them. I compliment the public service and Civil Service unions which were extremely responsible in the most difficult times. Even when other people in other unions were using words like "treacherous" and "treasonous", they were not treacherous or treasonous. Those in the public sector unions were patriotic.

I call Deputy Thomas Byrne, who is sharing time with Deputy O'Rourke. I will probably have to interrupt in the middle of one of those contributions to ask the Deputy to propose the Adjournment because we are due to finish at 10.15 p.m. Deputy Byrne has been waiting a long time.

This will not take too much time. I thank my colleagues and the Ministers for their contributions. I am reminded of a little bit of history. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, spoke about the responsible attitude we are taking and I welcome his appreciation of that. Like the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, I have very strong memories of some of the original FEMPI legislation passing through the House. That same responsible attitude we are demonstrating today was not always in evidence from the Opposition side. Now that they are in government, I am glad they have changed that particular attitude.

Deputy Mattie McGrath said he probably voted for it, but he actually forgets, because he voted for it before he voted against it. On one particular occasion that I will never forget, I was the intermediary between the then Minister, the late Brian Lenihan, and him. I negotiated that Brian Lenihan would introduce a 90% bankers' bonus tax in the legislation to keep Deputy Mattie McGrath on board. However, in the hour or two between Second Stage, and Report and Final Stages, Deputy Mattie McGrath had changed his vote.

Those were difficult times, but they were more difficult for the people affected by the FEMPI legislation, as all sides have acknowledged. Many people put up with considerable hardship at the time. I will never forget the emails and other communication I received at that time from public servants and others who were taking a big hit as the economy went into a tailspin. There was a job to be done to get the economy back on an even keel. I am so glad that I stood with our Minister for Finance at the time, Brian Lenihan, and my leader at the time, Brian Cowen, in implementing really difficult legislation. It is a wonderful privilege and honour to be in Dáil Éireann as we see this FEMPI legislation being unwound and the benefits going back to those in the public sector. Fianna Fáil is happy to do that.

I do not intend to delay, but, as education spokesperson, I wish to set out our position on newly qualified teachers in particular. It is really important that Government gets the message that this is a running sore in the education sector. As only Members from the centre parties are left in the Chamber - the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, spoke about this - we really need to ensure that the newly qualified people are looked after. They are looking to other areas in the political spectrum for answers, which is not necessary. I believe the centre parties should be offering this. It was a huge disappointment to me that the pay talks were able to go through without the issue of newly qualified people being dealt with. It was very unwise of the negotiators to do that. However, that is the pay agreement we are left with and we have to implement it. I am sure the Minister will talk about this. The pay agreement makes provision for work to be done in respect of those newly qualified people. It is urgent to do that and to get resolution.

As an Opposition party, we cannot propose financial changes to the legislation. However, Deputy Calleary has proposed amendments which will require the Minister to carry out a review to find out what can be done as quickly as possible. I want to make clear that Fianna Fáil is committed to equalising the pay scales as soon as we can do that. It should not take a huge amount of time. That is a matter for budgets and for negotiations. We are committed to doing that because it is the right thing to do.

It is causing division and dissent in classrooms. It is causing division beyond classrooms in wider society as people feel they are on one side of a divide. It feeds into a radical ideology in politics which is wrong and unfortunate. It also a major contributor to the teacher shortage we have. The perception and the reality is that newly qualified teachers are not getting paid properly. The current teacher shortage is the thing that will pull the rug from under the plans of the Minister, Deputy Bruton, in the school sector. He cannot do anything in education without teachers. This is an aspect that needs to be addressed and we urge the Government to do that.

We will be supporting the Bill. I do not know how anybody could vote against the pay rises proposed. I know Deputy Calleary's amendments will help the situation. Our political commitment on this remains. It is a strong commitment to equalise those scales and do something that is right, fair and just.

Like my colleague, Deputy Thomas Byrne, and others, I fully support this Bill. I will be brief because I am up against the clock. I acknowledge the Minister is in the Chamber to hear our contributions.

When the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI Act was introduced, it was a difficult time in this House, nationally and for the people who suffered as a result of it. Any measure that supports the reinstatement of public service pay must be welcomed. We must welcome this legislation in light of all the different sectors that will be positively affected by it. I refer to the teachers, local authority staff, nurses, gardaí and so on. They have come through a very difficult time. We must put whatever we can back into their pockets through salary increases. This Bill is welcome in that regard.

I have met a number of different groups in this regard, particularly teachers in the case of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, INTO, who have found it extremely difficult in recent times, particularly regarding the way in which their pay scales have been dealt with, on foot of which teachers who are equally qualified and do the same job now find they are on different pay scales. That can be very disheartening for individuals in the workplace and in general and it creates an atmosphere across all divides and all sectors. It is critically important to rectify those inadequacies and to have public service pay reinstatement and increases put in place as quickly as possible, which will also help those people in terms of the cost of living. Currently, if people in any those sectors are trying to rent a property, never mind purchase one, it is impossible to for them to do so because of the situation in terms of their salaries, which will not even allow them to rent in places like Kildare or in areas outside the Dublin commuter belt. Therefore, the legislation is very important. An advantage of it is that will attract our qualified professionals back home to assist in filling the vacancies we find difficult to fill. We must look upon the Bill as positive in that regard.

I fully support the Bill. I acknowledge the sacrifices that have been made by people in the public service, and I welcome the pay reinstatement and salary increases for them. However small it will be, it is a step in the right direction, and it must be welcomed.

The Minister has an opportunity to reply and to propose that the Bill passes Second Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 5 December 2017.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 30 November 2017.