Public Services Pay and Pensions Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages

SECTION 15

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 13, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

“(2) In the case of a public servant who is an employee or officer of the Central Bank of Ireland, a reference in subsection (1) to the “Minister” shall be construed as a reference to the “Central Bank Commission”.”.

This is a technical amendment. It grants the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the power to address anomalies in pay scales as a result of scheduled pay increases in the Bill. It grants the power to the Central Bank Commission in respect of employees or officers of the Central Bank of Ireland. The Minister is submitting this technical amendment in recognition of the independence of the Central Bank of Ireland. Section 6(d) of the Central Bank Act 1942 provides for the commission to fix such conditions, including conditions as to remuneration, for employees of the Central Bank of Ireland. As such, it is appropriate that the power to amend the salaries of Central Bank of Ireland staff, where anomalies arise, lie with the Central Bank Commission rather than the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 15, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 16 to 20, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 21
Question proposed: "That section 21 stand part of the Bill."

This concerns the penalty clause, particularly for unions which have not signed up to the agreement. It is a retrograde step to try to insert anything into primary legislation that would interfere with the ability of a union or try to influence its decision-making in taking industrial action. We are, therefore, opposed to the section and went through all of the arguments during a previous debate.

This is the section which is causing most disturbance among teachers because it will freeze increments and also be discriminatory against certain teachers. It will affect the pensions of some who are already at a disadvantage and thus affect the future of the profession. It is being seen as an assault on unions, normal industrial relations and the principles of trade unionism. It undermines the duty of a union to protect the interests of its members. It is very severe.

I have seen figures for the potential loss. The cumulative effect is actually staggering from the point of view of repudiation. People will not recover what they have lost.

The section is creating tensions between those unions which accepted the agreements and those which repudiated them, between those employed prior to and after 2011. We all know the value of education and about the importance of the curriculum and methodologies used, but as a former teacher I know that the teacher-pupil relationship is absolutely crucial. It depends on the quality of the teacher and the teaching, which is of the utmost importance. We have to ensure young people entering the teaching profession can maintain that quality. Entering on an unequal footing is not helping.

During the years we have seen - I saw it in my time a good while ago - graduates with the same degrees - a BA, a B Com and Bachelor of Science - enter private industry and make much more money. This adds to the inequality. It began with the budget decisions and is made worse by what is contained in section 21. Teachers should not have to endure that inequality within the profession and are finding it intolerable. It will not encourage anyone to enter the profession. I understand the TUI membership is particularly affected because 35% of its members are new entrants. It is hoping that number will increase, provided people enter the profession.

Surveys show that there is a shortage of teachers, although the Minister might say otherwise. Across the board there are difficulties in recruiting and finding substitutes to provide cover because private industry is making it much more attractive for those who would have entered teaching, while others are leaving to enter private industry. There has also been a drop in the numbers applying to undertake the master of education degree. This situation cannot be allowed to fester for three years. Will the Minister, therefore, acknowledge that there is a problem? Will he re-engage with the unions in question? I understand the three-year freeze was never mentioned in the talks. Therefore, it is undermining the agreements. The unions only became aware of this provision when the legislation was produced.

I am speaking in opposition to this section. There are significant punitive and draconian measures included in the Bill which are disproportionate and without precedent. They include the freezing of increments for three years and a nine-month delay in pay restoration.

There is also the unequal two-tier system of payment for public servants, which affects in particular those employed after 1 January 2011. This section is effectively punishing those public servants who disagree with the proposed pay agreement. It freezes increments for three years. Not only are dissenting unions and their members being denied the benefits of the agreement but the existing pay scales of members from dissenting unions are being cut by law. This is being done through an increment freeze and it is the equivalent of denying entitlement to service pay and other measures.

As Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan states, these measures are not in the public service pay agreement. They have been introduced by the Government in this Bill and they will therefore be put into law. They are being imposed by the Government. They are effectively the equivalent of industrial relations punishment beatings. It is important as these punishments will become precedents for employers in commercial semi-State bodies and private industry. In effect, it will give the green light to private sector employers and those in semi-State bodies to punish employees in their respective companies. One can hear as we speak the argument will be that the Government was able to do it so surely they should be entitled to do the same. There is a significant precedent being set, not just for teachers, nurses and public servants but for the wider employment spheres. There will be clear precedents to allowing private sector and semi-State employers to punish their workers in the very same way as the Government proposes to do with this section. It is outrageous and should be withdrawn by the Minister.

The Bill before the House this evening is a missed opportunity to strive towards one of the most important underlying principles of fairness and justice in our society, the principle of equal pay for equal work. It is a fundamental undermining of this principle that any person should be paid considerably less for doing the same job simply because they started work after a certain date. This multi-tiered system, which results in some public servants earning as much as 20% less than colleagues, should be abolished as soon as possible so all public servants can be paid the same for the same work. It is equal pay for equal work. How many times need we say this to the Government but it still refuses to commit to that principle? Not only does the Bill completely avoid addressing this basic inequality but it also applies punitive measures to those who have not signed up to the Public Service Stability Agreement, PSSA, 2018-2020. It is on that basis that the Green Party will oppose sections 21 and 33 this evening.

Section 21 would suspend the awarding of increments to members of trade unions or staff associations that have not notified the Workplace Relations Commission that they agree to be bound by the PSSA. These members are defined in section 3 as non-covered public servants. They will not receive any benefits of the agreement from 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2020. To incentivise sign-up to the PSSA, section 21 provides for less favourable terms for public servants not covered by the PSSA between 2018 and 2020. These include slower pay restoration, with each increase taking place nine months later than the scheduled pay increase, and the suspension of incremental increases up to the end of 2020. Meanwhile, section 33 of the Bill requires non-covered public servants to start giving pension contributions from a lower wage threshold than anyone else.

Given the number of young and new teachers in this country, it is of no surprise that it is among the teacher unions that the PSSA has been roundly rejected. Tá riachtanas ann go léireofar meas ar ár múinteoirí óga agus nua-cáilithe sa tír seo. Cad is fiú dóibh a bheith ina seasamh os comhair ranga má tá an múinteoir béal dorais leo i dteideal pá níos airde ná iad. Caithfear luach a gcuid saothair a thabhairt dóibh luath nó mall. The teaching profession in our country is being devalued and this will have a detrimental impact on the quality of education in Ireland. Our younger teachers play a vital role in the future direction of education and they are highly skilled and specialised classroom practitioners, entrusted on a daily basis with major and far-reaching responsibility. By allowing differential pay scales to continue, we are telling our teachers that they do not matter and we do not care. That is simply not good enough. They will leave our shores if this continues.

At some stage in the near future will this Government please commit to the principle of equal pay for equal work? Do it now. The Green Party will oppose this section.

This is clearly a crucial section as it is the gun to the head of the unions. It says to union members, and particularly teacher unions that refuse to sign up to the deal because they stood for solidarity across their members and intergenerational solidarity between older and younger workers, that they can have whatever vote they like but we will punish them if they do not sign the deal. It is scandalous and a very deep and significant attack on the right of workers to organise in trade unions and bargain in a free and collective fashion. It is very extreme interference with trade unions and the right of workers to decide. Where workers are presented with a deal, they should have the right to say "Yes" or "No" and not be faced with a position from the State, as an employer, whereby if they say "No", they will be punished significantly. They will lose increments for three years and never catch up again with an equivalent worker in a union that has signed up to what was a very bad deal. New entrants faced with the new pension scheme will lose doubly, as they will lose here and with their pension, which would be based on total earnings.

It is a really rotten section that is part of a rotten approach by the Government. I agree with Deputy Healy that this sends a very dangerous signal of encouragement to ruthless private sector employers to similarly go after workers. We oppose this section.

This is my third time to speak in the Dáil today. I was thinking that although the issues I speak to seem unconnected, they are not. These connected themes are homelessness, the attempt to bring us into a European army and the pay and pensions Bill before us. I say these are connected because this Government is weaving its own intricate web, connected by various threads. The Minister might wonder what I am talking about and the connections I speak of.

Another woman died on the streets last night and homelessness is a continuing and spiralling crisis in the country. Continuing policies of the Government have failed to deal with it. More resources are probably needed to prevent any more deaths on the streets. It will probably snow tonight and we will be thinking of those people stuck on the streets or in tents in parks. The second matter of the permanent structured co-operation and the European army is related because it demonstrates how easily money can be found, if the Government wills it, under the Minister's guidance. Our military spending is to be moved from almost €1 billion to between €3 billion and €4 billion. It seems to be no bother and we will be able to find money to put into armies, arms and aggression. Meanwhile, we cannot find the money to house the homeless or end the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation.

The Minister stated repeatedly in the Dáil in recent years that he could not end the FEMPI measures because doing so would be too costly for the State. As I recall, he referred to a figure of €260 million per year. Whatever the loss to the Exchequer, it certainly would be lower than the €3 billion to €4 billion the Government just voted through to take us into a European army. The Minister can find the money to suit his ends but not to pay teachers properly and end the discrimination that is at the root of the decision by the three teacher unions to reject the public service stability agreement. Following that rejection, the Minister used a big hammer to beat the unions over the head and impose further discrimination and pay inequality on their members. It is the first time a government has used such a hammer, and all to crack the three nuts that are the teacher unions. Fair play to them for rejecting the deal. Many public sector workers have told me they felt they had no choice but to accept the deal, precisely because the Minister was holding that big hammer over their head and warning that rejection would leave them tied into a permanent arrangement whereby the pay inequality imposed on them would not be addressed.

The FEMPI legislation is being used to penalise workers and entrench inequality. In my area, 11 beds at the Linn Dara facility in Cherry Orchard, an adult mental health unit, were closed at the beginning of the summer. By the admission of the Minister for Health, it proved impossible to recruit the psychiatric nurses needed to keep every bed occupied. A new recruitment drive has since commenced and the beds were reopened, but there is no escaping the admission that pay policy is driving nurses away. The nursing unions voted to accept the deal under pressure of the Minister's hammer. The teachers, however, have not fallen for that tactic and the Minister is now seeking to penalise them. The FEMPI legislation is a truly extraordinary emergency measure in that it is apparently possible to retain it year after year. There are 8,000 people homeless in this State, with families living in hotels for Christmas, children writing to Santa asking for a home instead of toys, and people dying on the streets. The Government will neither acknowledge nor address the housing emergency, but it insists there is a financial emergency that necessitates using legislation to penalise workers who do not agree with Government pay policy.

Has the Minister explored any alternatives to the particular provisions set out in this section? Should his party and Fianna Fáil vote these proposals through, when does he expect to enact them, or are they simply something he proposes to hold as a threat? Everybody in this House, including the Minister, should acknowledge that the vast bulk of the membership of the teacher unions, including the executive officers, acted in a way that showed extraordinary support for the State during the course of the economic crash and the mass unemployment that ensued. They did so at a time when the challenges faced by teachers and others involved in education at all levels were exceptionally difficult. The Minister ought to give due regard to what these people, and people in the wider public service, have done for this country in its hour of greatest need. In the midst of an economic emergency that led to 330,000 people losing their jobs, it cannot be disputed that public servants did their bit.

I am aware that the Minister has a very high regard for education, as does the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, as an important glue that binds Irish society. Parents in this country see that their children can advance through the education system, that academic achievement is not just for the privileged who go to private schools and avail of private tutoring, and that ordinary people - people like the Minister and me - can and do go to college.

And people like Deputy Paul Murphy.

Some people are very privileged and most of them acknowledge that privilege. There are many people in this House who owe their position to the work done by teachers across the education system. As I said, I am aware of the value the Minister attaches to education and his appreciation of the school he attended, which had a great showing in the recent survey of the numbers of pupils going on to further education from schools throughout the State. A large number of schools in Dublin 7 and Dublin 15 also performed strongly, which is an enormous source of pride to me. I am very interested in the Minister's thinking on this.

The industrial relations strategy the Minister is pursuing is not a good one and he should rethink it. As I said, the efforts shown by the leadership and members of the teacher unions through the course of the crisis deserve recognition. There should be recognition, too, of the genuine difficulties facing new entrants to teaching, who include both young people and mature people who transferred from other careers to become teachers. Many of us owe much of our own advancement in life to the teachers who guided us. In the case of Members of the Oireachtas, that advancement has led to our having the privilege to work in this House. Why has the Minister chosen this particular approach to the people who made such a tremendous contribution to Irish society? We should remember, in addition, that in recent years, teachers have had to manage increasing numbers of non-national children whose home language is not English. Teachers took the view that every child in every school should be a welcome child. That tremendous achievement is evident in towns and villages throughout the country, in large schools and small schools. Will the Minister pause to reflect on what he expects to achieve by this approach?

The recent Exchequer returns for November, the most important month of the year for tax receipts, were extremely strong by any standards. Those results afford the Minister capacity to address issues. Will he consider, in a spirit of collective bargaining and in the broadest community interest, appointing a mediator and bringing people together to discuss this issue? I accept that he cannot pay out on everything at once and that he must make a budget which will work. However, the Exchequer returns are far better than expected and the outlook to 2020, because of the continuing return of people to employment, has improved. As such, he has capacity to address particular situations. Earlier this week, I raised with him the serious difficulties for people currently undertaking master's degrees and doctorates. Some of these people, having spent a lot of money and devoted additional years to study, will go on to work in institutes of technology, for example, and find the entry rate of pay is lower than that for teachers in second level schools or even primary schools.

There are issues that need to be addressed if the Minister wants to prevent people being forced into other areas where they will not be able to apply their skills in education as they may have wanted or going abroad to work. Many of these people will get a job in places that will not allow them to live at home, rent free. They may have to move to the next town or to a city. Rents are a big problem for anyone on a starting salary. If possible before Report Stage I would like the Minister, who is also responsible for relationships with the trade unions, to make arrangements for further conversations with the whole trade union movement.

Many in the public service have accepted the arrangement and if it is changed for one it must be changed for all. The recent Exchequer returns show there is room for manoeuvre which, instead of damaging the economy, would inject more wages over time into it. That is one of the growth mechanisms it needs in order to support people who want to buy a house and to commit to a 30 or 35 year mortgage. The Minister would then be doing a kind of social building, if he could envisage a change that would allow the country to prosper more. This would help not just those in the public sector but the overall economy. Notwithstanding that the budget has to be in early October, the November figures show a change. It would be wise if the Minister were to study those figures and to give consideration to a format of settlement of this issue that would allow the country to advance.

I thank the Deputies for raising these issues. The overall effect of this Bill is to bring to an end the income reduction our public and civil servants endured during the crisis. Several Deputies have called on me to end the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation. From an earnings point of view this is bringing FEMPI to an end for 90% of those in the public services. For the other 10% who are at the higher end of the income scale, depending on how much they earn, we are committing to do that one or two years after the three-year period of the agreement which this legislation aims to make happen. The difference in respect of this is in the additional contributions we will ask people to make to their pension benefits in the future. We will introduce an additional superannuation payment which in turn will recognise the value of public pensions, given all the changes that have taken place in the availability of private pensions and the fact that we have to ensure we have the revenue to pay for people's pension entitlements in the future.

In response to the demands this evening to end FEMPI, this is ending FEMPI in a responsible and affordable way. That is one of the reasons a majority of those who voted on this agreement voted to accept it. Despite the allegations that I have a hammer in my hand and that I want to penalise workers that is not what this section seeks to do. It simply seeks to recognise that the benefits of the agreement, and in particular the timing of the benefits of the agreement, should recognise those who voted for it as opposed to those who vote against it.

It is the same thing.

It makes clear that if people vote for the agreement they will receive some of the wage changes taking place early and increment progression has not been automatic in our wage policy to date. The availability of those increments and the ability to gain them depends on whether people are part of a group of unions to accept the agreement.

Whether they agree or not.

My ambition is that we get to a point where all unions are participating in this agreement. Twelve to 18 months ago many Members here claimed that collective agreements had come to an end because of the difficulty caused by the stance of Garda unions but the Lansdowne Road agreement was stabilised and we negotiated a new agreement to take its place. Deputy Burton asked last night if I valued collective agreements. Many times in that period I said collective agreements are the fairest and most affordable way to manage industrial relations within our country but if someone is looking for an agreement there has to be a benefit to being in it. If there is no benefit what is the point in coming up with an agreement and balloting on it?

In response to some of the other questions, of course I acknowledge the contributions of teachers and public servants. Results this week show that our students at primary and second levels are among the strongest in Europe in terms of literacy and numeracy. That reflects the contribution our teachers make. I was in St. Laurence O'Toole primary school in North Wall this morning and was again reminded at first hand of the amazing contribution all our teachers, special needs assistants and teaching assistants make to looking after young boys and girls and giving them the best start in life.

Section 21 is consistent with other legislation to date, particularly the Acts of 2013 and 2015, in that it recognises that benefits will be concentrated on people inside the agreement. It is my ambition to get everyone into the agreement. There are processes in place to deal with some of the issues being raised and we will over time get to the point where all unions are in the agreement by doing the kind of work we have done over the past 12 to 18 months, engaging in a responsible way with unions and negotiating with them to come up with agreements that are fair and affordable.

Several Deputies referred to Exchequer returns, the economy and so on but we are using the health of the economy over the next few years, which we hope will not be endangered by developments such as Brexit and developments elsewhere, to pay for this agreement. That health and the pay rates that will be legislated for in this agreement also give us the ability to hire more teachers, nurses and civil servants in the future.

That is why I commend this section and the Bill to the House.

I listened to the Minister but the members of the union see this section very differently. They see it as causing undue discomfort and upset to them. This comes from branches of the trade union right across the country. When I hear moderate members of trade unions calling this section reckless and infuriating, that makes me sit up and listen to what they are saying. They say that it could give rise to industrial unrest, which nobody wants. They see it as being disrespectful of the principles of trade unionism and the democratic rights of members of trade unions to either accept or reject proposals. It is obvious that those who reject something will be punished and it is unprecedented in the history of labour relations because it is a form of coercion of public sector workers. I get the impression that the Minister will re-engage in a way because he says he wants to get members into the agreement but it will mean looking at the unfairness that this section represents to members.

I want to lend my voice to the points others have made on this. We are supposed to be a free country. People should have the right to express their views and vote for or against a pay agreement. What the Minister has already proposed and what is already happening is that people who vote against this agreement are penalised by slower restoration of pay. There is no justification for this further punishment and targeting of people who have chosen, as is their democratic right, not to accept a pay agreement. It is true to say, and I put it to the Minister, that limiting people's increments is outside the scope of the pay agreement and should therefore be outside the scope of this legislation too. I cannot see any justification for that other than a fairly ruthless attempt to coerce people into accepting what the Minister wants them to accept. By any kind of standards in a free country, that kind of approach by Government is unacceptable. That is why I believe Members of this House should have no choice but to reject this section. It is not acceptable that public sector workers would be coerced into a situation where they are particularly and deliberately penalised for a legitimate choice they make. It is not acceptable and I urge the Minister to withdraw that threat.

From listening to the Minister's response to what we have said here that there has to be an incentive to accept an agreement, it is quite possible that he was never in a trade union. I think he is an accountant, so that is quite possible. I will tell him how it works. A deal is negotiated between a union and bosses. The deal is then put to a person who votes on it. That person can accept or reject that deal, depending on how he or she perceives it. If a person rejects it, or if a majority rejects it, then the matter goes back to the drawing board with an employer, or one accesses the industrial relations machinery, such as the Workplace Relations Commission, or the Labour Relations Commission in its day. If it is accepted, the minority that refused to accept it is stuck with it. Those people are paid it. They are not told that they can go to hell and stick with the other agreement and that because the others were good boys and girls, they will get the new one while those who rejected it do not. That is what we call collective bargaining. The Minister has just driven a coach and four through those rules. He clearly does not understand how trade unionism has traditionally worked or else he wants to create a new form of trade unionism à la Paschal Donohoe. That is exactly what he is trying to do here.

I asked the Minister if he had a proposal for this legislation, if he goes ahead with it, as to when he plans to enact this section. An art of being a negotiator and negotiating change in, and supporting, institutions is to grasp opportunities as they arise to resolve situations which have become extremely difficult. In his public statements, the Minister has indicated a strong desire to do that. He was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in a period when there were several transport strikes which threatened public transport and the commuters who use it. That was resolved through resolution work and mediation. I suggest to the Minister that he should adopt the same approach and perhaps come back to us on Report Stage since he is perhaps not in a position to give an indication now. When Deputy Calleary moved his amendment to have a study on the impact of restoration, the Minister, who is to be commended for it, agreed to do that. That was completely sensible. In parallel to that, to send a signal that this is an issue that requires resolution, it makes sense for the Minister to stay his hand on this and to provide for the information to be received. He acknowledged that the November tax returns were very good. We need wage growth for the recovery of the economy. Any economist will tell the Minister that. If he wants to resolve the housing crisis or the homeless crisis, that is part of what is needed. I am putting forward a completely sensible proposition. While the Minister may not be able to address this issue right now, I would be happy to bring forward a proposal either privately or for Report Stage and that he could address this then.

The Minister's predecessor, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, was very gung-ho about transport strikes when he first became Minister, then it dawned on him that it would be very difficult for, and would impact with extraordinary negativity on, people who use public transport and a resolution was found after much talking. I suggest the Minister turns to a level of mediation and of resourcing, since it requires resources which are there, and offer a timescale which will address this issue in a more timely way than what he has proposed, given the circumstances. He is always saying that if circumstances change, he can change his mind. The economic circumstances have changed, so the Minister has space.

I ask the Minister to reconsider this. We should look at it from the point of view of a teacher union. It will see this as a proposal which will only inflame the situation. I know the Minister said that there would have to be a return to negotiation and mediation to hopefully resolve this. The Minister has to understand where people are coming from with a hammer hanging over their heads and how they will perceive this. It is not just the Minister who should reconsider this. I do not want to put Fianna Fáil on the spot but if it opposes this section, then it will not go through. I appeal to Deputy Calleary because, as we saw the last time we debated this when his amendment was pushed through when all Members of the Opposition came together, I think there is a responsibility on the Deputy and Fianna Fáil not to sit on their hands with regard to this section. To do so will not go unnoticed by the teacher unions. It is not just a matter of the Government position. Fianna Fáil's position will not go unnoticed.

I appeal to the Deputy to join us in opposing the section.

I thank all the Deputies for the points they made. In terms of how we will move this matter forward, many Deputies are referring to two different issues. The first is the distinction between covered and non-covered workers, which is at the heart of this section. When will the provision be implemented? It will be implemented by the passage of this legislation. It does not require a further statutory instrument from me. It will be implemented when this legislation becomes law if, as is hoped, it is passed tonight by the Dáil and next week by the Seanad.

On the issues the teacher unions are currently raising on the different position on pay curves depending on when a person joined the teaching profession, that process is already under way. We are doing that work. My Department met all the teacher unions in recent weeks and we will continue that work with them to see if there is a path by which this matter can be resolved. That is not contained in the legislation but it is in the agreement with the teacher unions. We will honour our commitment to that process and see whether there is a way to progress the matter, if not resolve it.

I will return to a point I made last night. All of us in this House should know that agreement is not reached with one part of the public service without an expectation and a need that it will apply to all. While it is an issue that many Deputies raise on behalf of teachers, there would be an expectation that how we deal with the matter in the teaching profession would be applied everywhere. As I have said in response to the questions put to me, that work is under way with the teacher unions and we will take it very seriously.

Further, I can tell Deputy Bríd Smith that I have ample experience of the trade union movement from both sides of the table.

It does not look like it.

The key issue driving the opposition is the area of equalisation. While the original legislation does not contain anything about the matter, our amendment has ensured there will be Oireachtas involvement in getting a progress report on it. I am not comfortable with this section because I do not think industrial relations strategy should be in legislation. However, in view of the process we have inserted into the legislation through our amendment, we will be abstaining.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 44; Níl, 33; Staon, 25.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Browne, James.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Smith, Brendan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith.
Question declared carried.
Section 22 agreed to.
SECTION 23

Amendments Nos. 8 to 10, inclusive, have been ruled out of order owing to a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendments Nos. 8 to 10, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 17, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

"(4) The Minister shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the restoration of nursing and midwifery allowances by 1 July 2019 and not 1 October 2020.".

I will not be accepting the amendment for the following reason.

There is a good reason in that the Bill provides for the restoration of all fixed allowances that were reduced under the FEMPI (No. 2) Act 2009. The reductions were applied to allowances across the public service, including allowances paid to health sector staff such as nurses and consultants, as well as allowances paid to other public servants such as gardaí and teachers. The reductions were not confined to allowances for nurses and midwives only. As such, it would not be appropriate to consider a faster restoration of allowances for one cohort of staff in the public service. The Government's approach to the restoration of pay reduced under the FEMPI legislation has always been consistent with that taken during its application, that is, providing for equitable treatment for all public servants. The particular sectors to which the Deputy refers will be part of the first module of work to be undertaken by the Public Service Pay Commission when it examines difficulties in recruitment and retention in the health service. It will examine that sector, in particular.

On the broader issue of allowances, I have met the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to discuss matters associated with this issue. We are going to deal with the broader issue in the context of the oversight committee under the public service stability agreement. Within both avenues there are ways to deal with allowances. I, therefore, ask the Deputy to consider withdrawing the amendment in the light of the fact that two avenues will be open to examine the issue.

It is important to acknowledge that for many public servants, allowances form a large part of their pay. Although the amendment refers to allowances for nurses and midwives which were the subject of a Labour Court hearing, the measure also applies to teachers and principals. It is welcome that work is under way, in view of which I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 23 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, have been ruled out of order as they involve a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendments Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, not moved.
Section 24 agreed to.
Sections 25 and 26 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 19, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:

"Early pension restoration for retired public servants

27. The Minister shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on restoring all public service pensions by 2019.".

The pensions issue has caused huge frustration for public service pensioners. Even though the Minister has had engagement with the Alliance of Retired Public Servants, the fact that its members were not formally represented when their incomes were being addressed was a source of enormous frustration. There are deadlines for some public service pensioners who may not have the luxury of reaching the end of the agreement. The aim of the amendment is to ascertain the cost of bringing forward the restoration date to 2019 in order that we can have a proper and informed discussion on earlier restoration dates for pensioners.

I will be very brief. I support the amendment and oppose the section and the following ones because in reality what is happening is that what was set up as an emergency measure, a pension levy, which was all about demonising public sector workers and suggesting they had something for which they had not paid, which was not the case as they had paid for it and continue to do so, has been made permanent by transforming the pension levy into a so-called additional superannuation contribution that will continue to be made indefinitely. In reality, it amounts to a pay cut and the consolidation of the pay cut for public sector workers. I am against the measure.

I support the amendment proposed by Deputy Dara Calleary. In the context of the discussion we had previously, it would make a lot of sense and I hope the Minister can find his way to accepting it.

I will supply all of the information to Deputy Dara Calleary. I will ensure all of it is given to him on the cost of the various options if the restoration schedule was to be changed; on what the cost would be per year and on what the impact would be on the rest of the agreement. All of that information can be supplied to him by means of a paper to him personally or his committee. In the light of that, I ask him to consider withdrawing the amendment.

On the basis of the assurances received from the Minister, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SECTION 27

Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 19, after line 40, to insert the following:

“ “NILGOSC member” means a public servant—

(a) who is a ‘‘Reserved Rights scheme Member’’, as that term is defined in Rule A10 of the North/South Pension Scheme, and

(b) to whom the terms of the scheme constituted by the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000, the Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment No. 2 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 and the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 applied on 28 April 2005;”.

The provisions amend sections 27 and 30. The sections define the limited number of public servants who will be exempt from the additional superannuation contribution from 2019. The Bill provides for the exemption of "core" members of the North-South pension scheme which applies to the staff of the six North-South implementation bodies set up under the Good Friday Agreement and Tourism Ireland. In 2015 the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Northern Ireland Minister for Finance and the North-South Ministerial Council agreed that the "Hutton" reforms that applied to the UK public service would also apply to "core" members of the North-South pension scheme. The reforms included increased contribution rates and provided for revised career average retirement benefits from April 2015 onwards. There is one staff member who has "reserved rights" under the local government pension scheme of Northern Ireland. This member's pension terms incurred the same reforms that applied to "core" members. On that basis, the amendment will ensure this member is granted the exemption from the additional superannuation contribution.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 27, as amended, agreed to.
Question, "That section 28 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
Question, "That section 29 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
SECTION 30

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 22, to delete lines 3 to 5 and substitute the following:

“(a) a member of a public service pension scheme that is a defined contribution scheme,

(b) a core member, or

(c) a NILGOSC member.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section, 30, as amended, agreed to.
Question, "That section 31 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.

Amendment No. 19 has been ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 19 not moved.
Question, "That section 32 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
SECTION 33
Question proposed: "That section 33 stand part of the Bill."

I will be brief. We spoke about section 21. This is the corresponding section in a sense in that it is the other part of the gun to the head of the unions to punish them for opposing the pay deal. Section 21 took away increments and this section punishes union members in their pensions.

For that reason, we oppose it because of the impact on those workers and also because of the message it sends in denying people the right to freely bargain collectively, reject deals on their merits and vote and not to be punished for it.

Yet again the Minister is trying to implement a separate set of conditions for those not covered by the pay deal. It seems that the intention is to punish those unions which rejected the pay agreement. Whatever about having slower pay restoration for the unions that rejected the deal, it is simply unacceptable that they be further punished by applying a brake to increments and what is proposed in the section which will ensure their pension contributions will be payable at a lower threshold than those covered by the pay deal.

It is important to point out that the three teacher unions that voted against the pay agreement did not do so because they wanted more money. They voted against it because they wanted a fair deal for their new entrant colleagues. As long as that remains the position and that unfairness for new entrants continues, as a result of this legislation, teachers will become more and more aggrieved about the way they have been treated and punished because of their democratic decision.

The Social Democrats oppose section 33 in its entirety, as it will introduce less favourable additional superannuation contributions in 2019 and 2020 for public servants who are not covered by the pay deal compared to those who are. We propose that the same charging structure for public servants who are covered by the pay deal, as outlined in section 32, apply to all public servants. We also propose the deletion of section 32(1)(c) to clarify that all public servants would be covered by the same charging structure. Unfortunately, that amendment has been ruled out of order. We vehemently oppose section 21.

As we had this debate when we were discussing section 21, I do not intend to rehash all of the arguments made. I appeal to the Minister to step back and reconsider pressing ahead with the section. As I said when I was discussing section 21, the attention of the teacher unions will once again focus on the position Fianna Fáil has taken. Fianna Fáil Members suggested they were going to abstain in the vote on section 21 and, presumably, section 33. In effect, that will allow the sections to be passed because the Minister has given Fianna Fáil a fig leaf. A report is to be commissioned and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas within three months of the enactment of the Bill. That is a flimsy reason for Fianna Fáil Deputies to sit on their hands. Certainly, it will not go unnoticed by the teacher unions. If it does, I will not be long in reminding them of it.

I believe the approach taken in the section is wrong and should be reconsidered. The Minister has experience of previous industrial relations disputes in which there was a threat of sustained strikes. I imagine he does not want to see a breakdown in public sector union relations in any area but especially the education sector. That would not be good for the country and it certainly would not be good for children and others being educated. I, therefore, urge the Minister to examine the matter within a comprehensive economic and mediation framework. I urge him to seek to resolve the matter without this section coming to pass. It really is not in the best interests of the education sector. As I said before, the Minister should recall that the teacher unions and their members have been exemplary contributors to the recovery of the economy. He should bear that in mind.

I spoke earlier about this matter when I was speaking to section 21. The Green Party opposes section 33. It requires public servants who are not covered by the pay agreement, as defined in section 3, to start making pension contributions at a lower wage threshold than everyone else. Táimid go mór i gcoinne é seo.

The Bill makes major and disadvantageous changes to trade union and industrial relations procedures. Effectively, the Government is introducing by law punishments for unions and individuals that take a different view from their employers. That is outrageous. The silence of the leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is absolutely deafening. This legislation sets an extraordinary and dangerous precedent. It directly affects public servants, but it sets a dangerous precedent for employees and workers in the private and semi-State sectors also. The punishment sections should be withdrawn by the Minister.

As the arguments have been covered in dealing with several other sections, I do not intend to repeat them. However, I emphasise that the focus of the approach taken in the Bill is consistent with that of previous legislation and how I handled industrial relations disputes in the recent past. The idea is simply to try to ensure there are benefits to being inside an agreement and, therefore, in explaining why people should vote for it.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 45; Níl, 32; Staon, 27.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Browne, James.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Curran, John.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Smith, Brendan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Paul Murphy and Jonathan O'Brien.
Question declared carried.
Sections 34 to 37, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 38

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 27, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

"(3) Notwithstanding subsection (1) and subject to—

(a) any requirement under any regulations made under section 37 to repay any overpayment, or

(b) any requirement arising under section 39 to repay any deduction,

a contribution of a public servant who is a member of a superannuation scheme established under section 33AG(2) of the Central Bank Act 1942 shall be paid into the trust fund established under section 33AG(4) of that Act in respect of that superannuation scheme.

(4) A reference in subsection (3) to a superannuation scheme established under section 33AG(2) of the Central Bank Act 1942 includes a reference to a scheme resulting from the merger under section 33AH(3) of that Act of such a scheme and a scheme referred to in section 33AH(1) of that Act.".

This amendment amends section 38 of the Bill.

This section requires that the additional superannuation contribution must be paid centrally into the Exchequer, or otherwise disposed of as the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform so directs.

This technical amendment provides certainty that any additional superannuation contribution which is paid by employees or officers of the Central Bank will be retained in the trust fund of the bank's pension scheme. It is required to address inconsistencies with current legislation and to ensure the Central Bank's independence, as required under EU law. The bank provides a funded pension scheme for its staff under section 33AG of the Central Bank Act 1942. The bank is obliged to transfer all contributions made by members of its pension scheme to the trustees of that scheme.

Without this amendment, any additional superannuation contribution made by Central Bank staff would be required to be surrendered to the Exchequer, which is at odds with current legislation. Following consultation with the Central Bank and having received the opinion of the European Central Bank on the draft Bill, this amendment is required to ensure the independence of the Central Bank.

It should be also noted that, uniquely and in recognition of the bank's financial independence, the additional superannuation contribution will apply only to employees and officers of the Central Bank with the written consent of the Governor of the bank and the Minister for Finance.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 38, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Section 38 is not agreed to.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 39
Question proposed: "That section 39 stand part of the Bill."

Section 39 is not agreed to.

Question put and declared carried.
SECTION 40
Question proposed: "That section 40 stand part of the Bill."

It is not agreed to.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 41 to 44, inclusive, agreed to.

Amendment No. 21 in the name of Deputy Dara Calleary has been ruled out of order as it is not relevant to the provisions of the Bill. We cannot discuss it.

There is irony in it being deemed not relevant to the provisions of the Bill when it is seeking a report on the difficulties in filling vacancies within the civil and public service, but I will leave that to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's judgment.

The Minister might clarify issues surrounding the application of this agreement to members of An Garda Síochána. Will they get the full benefit of this agreement or are they subject to a different deal, as was agreed through the Labour Court process?

We have been going so well, but I will give the Minister one minute.

An Garda Síochána will benefit fully from this agreement.

Amendment No. 21 not moved.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and received for final consideration.
Question put: "That the Bill do now pass."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 90; Níl, 11; Staon, 0.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Curran, John.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Seamus Healy and Paul Murphy.
Question declared carried.