This Bill provides a new superannuation code for persons in the service of local authorities. It is in general mandatory in respect of officers and adoptive in respect of servants. It will apply to all pensionable officers entering the service after the commencement of the Act, and also to such existing officers who, not having attained the specified age of 60 years, may opt to accept it. Local authorities may under Section 5 adopt Part III of the measure which makes the measure applicable to servants. Existing pensionable servants will have the same right of option, subject to age, as existing officers are to have.
The main provisions relating to officers will be found in Part II of the Bill; and those relating to servants will be found in Part III. Part IV contains a number of miscellaneous ancillary provisions applicable in the main to both classes. Part I contains the definitions and the usual preliminary and general provisions. It is provided that Part II shall come into operation when the Minister makes an Order to that effect. Part III, however, only comes into operation when the local authority concerned passes the necessary resolution under Section 5.
To qualify for pension reckoned on the full period of actual service an officer must have served with diligence and fidelity. The condition requiring service with general diligence and fidelity will be found in Sections 23 to 49. To become eligible for a pension an officer must be in the permanent employment of a local authority, and, with certain specified exceptions, he must devote the whole of his time to the local service. The exceptions are set out in Section 2.
The next salient feature of the proposals is the contribution which will be required of new entrants, whether officers or servants. This contribution will be 5 per cent. of the annual remuneration or earnings for officers and 4? per cent. for servants. Provision is made for a refund of contributions in certain circumstances under Section 32 and Section 57. These contributions will not defray more than one-third of the aggregate cost of pensions and other allowances which will be obtainable under the Bill. The balance will be met in general by the local authorities or, in the type of case to which Sections 18 or 84 apply, by the Minister for Finance and the local authority concerned. In the case of officers the pensions and other allowances will take the form of lump sum payments and annual allowances approximating to those granted to civil servants. The lump sum will be at the rate of 1-30th of the officer's retiring salary for each year of pensionable service, but will be limited to a maximum of one and a half times that salary. That is provided under Section 24. The annual allowance will be at the rate of 1-80th for each year of pensionable service but will not exceed one-half of the retiring salary. That is provided under Section 25. This limit will not, however, apply to allowances to be granted under Section 77 to officers or servants of local authorities whose retirement may be due to injury incurred in the discharge of their duty or to certain specified dependents in the event of death from such injuries. In the case of servants, there is much to be said in favour of making the annual allowance as large as possible in relation to the retiring pay. Accordingly, servants will not receive a lump sum on retirement, but their pensions will be calculated at the rate of 1-60th for each year of pensionable service instead of 1-80th as in the case of officers, and the maximum amount, except in cases of retirement due to injury in the discharge of duty, will be two-thirds, instead of one-half of their wages. The reference is Section 50.
The Bill also permits the payment of gratuities to the legal personal representatives of deceased established officers and servants as will be seen in Sections 28 and 53. Sections 29 and 54 provide that where a retired officer or servant dies before the total amount received by him in the form of a lump sum and annual allowances is equal to the pensionable remuneration at the date of retirement, the local authority may grant to his legal personal representative such a gratuity as will make good the difference between the deceased's retiring pensionable remuneration and the total of the sums paid to him on foot of the lump sum and the annual allowance paid up to the date of death. Female officers or servants of local authorities, who retire on marriage or with the intention of getting married, and who have not less than five years' pensionable service, will be entitled to a gratuity, calculated at the rate of one-twelfth of their pensionable remuneration multiplied by the number of years of pensionable service, subject to a maximum of a year's pay. The reference there is Sections 30 and 55.
Section 82, sub-section (1) provides that an officer of a local authority with not less than ten years' pensionable service who is appointed in future to an established post in the Civil Service can reckon for the purposes of the Civil Service Superannuation Acts his period of pensionable service with local authorities. Sub-section (2) of the section deals with past cases of movement from the local service to the Civil Service since 1922 and enables the appropriate Minister to issue certificates after investigation of the facts. The ten years' minimum local service will not be necessary in these cases.
In the case of a civil servant becoming an officer of a local authority the consent of the Minister for Finance and the local authority must be obtained to the application of similar benefits to his case (Section 18). These specific consents will not be necessary, of course, to cover past cases.
An established officer of a local authority who moves from the service of one local authority to another will be entitled to aggregate for pension purposes his separate periods of service with the local authorities concerned (Section 14). There is, however, an important reservation in this regard; if he served with another local authority for less than two years then that service will not count for pension unless he resigned from their service with the written sanction of the local authority concerned, and with the consent of the appropriate Minister. This provision should do much to avoid the disturbance of local administration caused by frequent changes of staffs.
Great difficulty was experienced in framing Part III of the measure, the part which relates to the servants of local authorities. Although we have established some measure of uniformity so far as pay is concerned, tenures of employment of servants still vary very greatly as between one local authority and another. The problem was to devise a scheme which would be generally applicable to all conditions.
This brought up in an acute way the problem of the road-workers and similar outdoor employees, whose service may be interrupted by the weather. I think it will be conceded that pensions for merely casual services could not be granted nor pensions for employment on relief works out of the public bounty unless the employees were already permanent servants whose services are utilised in a supervisory capacity.
Yet it would have been invidious to debar employees who in general were in fairly constant employment but who were subject at intervals to recurring interruption of their employment because of weather, cessation of grants, etc. These workers, though not in a factual sense permanently or continuously employed, are described very often by local custom as permanent men. This difficulty has been met in Section 42 (1) (h) and sub-section (4) in Section 63 by providing that if a servant having acquired pensionable status is employed for at least 200 days in any year, the period worked will count for pension purposes.
To secure pensionable status a servant of a local authority must have been in its permanent service for a continuous period of 3 years. His name shall then be entered in the local register of established servants, if the maximum number of established servants prescribed by the local authority under Section 5 has not been reached (Section 38 (2)). If during any of the three relevant years the aggregate temporary absences of a permanent servant of a local authority being of the kind specified in Section 61 do not exceed 60 days he will still be entitled to have his name entered on the register.
An officer or servant of a local authority may, under Sections 23 and 49, on attaining the age of 60 years, if he so elects, retire on pension, provided he has not less than 20 years of pensionable local service to his credit, and has fulfilled the other conditions prescribed. In the case of officers and servants of fire brigades, the age for voluntary retirement on pension is 55. These provisions do not, of course, compel the person concerned to retire at 60 years of age. In fact, the normal age for compulsory retirement of pensionable officers, as fixed by Order under Section 23 of the Local Government Act, 1941, is at present 65.
The cases of officers of vocational education committees who had previously held posts as national teachers or as secondary teachers are dealt with in Sections 72 and 90; while Section 36 deals with the position of established officers who, prior to 1924, had given whole-time service as teachers of Irish under the Gaelic League.
Under Section 77, power is taken to make regulations which will enable gratuities or allowances to be paid to officers or servants, whether in the pensionable class or not, who may be compelled to retire through injury caused in the actual discharge of duty and specifically attributable to the nature of such duty. Should an officer to whom this provision applies die within seven years after the date of his injury, and as the direct result of such injury, then gratuities or allowances may be paid to his widow and children and to his mother or father if they had been wholly dependent on him.
Representations have reached me that provision should be made for gratuities to the legal personal representatives of officers and servants who died before the commencement of the Act. I have endeavoured to meet that in Sections 37 (9) and 63 (6), which will enable local authorities to grant appropriate gratuities in cases where a pensionable officer or pensionable servant died on or after 1st January, 1947, and had not attained the age of 60, or 55 in the case of fire brigade officers and men, on that date.
The Bill contains a number of sections granting rights of appeal to established officers and established servants. The general principle of Ministerial responsibility as regards appeals is that the particular Minister concerned in questions of status shall decide appeals on failure to register the name of an officer or servant. Appeals against the removal of a name from the register of pensionable officers or servants will be dealt with on the same principles. Appeals against failures to grant lump sums or allowances or to return contributions or against the amount of lump sums, allowances or gratuities will be dealt with under Section 73 by the Minister for Local Government who is the Minister responsible under the Bill for sanctioning lump sums, allowances and gratuities.
The position of officers or servants who retired after November 1st, 1946, is dealt with in Section 79. Under this section local authorities may increase the allowances to such extent as may be sanctioned by the relevant Minister. The justification for this provision is that the age limit has operated to retire a number of officers before the post-emergency adjustment of their pay could become fully effective for pension purposes.
Section 79 also enables other existing pensions to be increased. Pensions carrying cost-of-living bonus can be adjusted to a cost-of-living bonus of 270 as from the 1st November, 1946. This applies to all pensions of this kind irrespective of the date of retirement. Inclusive pensions granted in respect of retirements between 1st July, 1940, and 1st November, 1946, may also be revised. Provision is made under Sections 68, 69 and 75 for the cancellation, reduction or suspension of pensions in special circumstances which arise rarely but which nevertheless have to be provided for.
The financial implications of a Bill of this kind are important and will no doubt be carefully examined by the representatives of the ratepayers, as well as by the officers and servants affected. In the absence of a special review of the service of every employee it is not possible to give precise figures, but if all local authorities give effect to the measure, I think it is safe to assume that the additional cost is unlikely to rise above £100,000—a figure which will not of course be reached for a number of years. At present, if we exclude mental hospital staffs, which are in a special category, having their own schemes, the local authorities pay out about £228,000 in retiring allowances and gratuities. The additional expenditure will depend entirely on the elected representatives of the ratepayers in each case.
As I have already pointed out, Part III of the Bill merely gives power to local authorities to provide for the superannuation of their servants in the manner specified in the Act. If a local authority desires to avail of that power then, in accordance with Section 5, it must decide by formal resolution to adopt Part III of the Act as from a specified date. Due notice of their intentions must be given in writing to the Minister and to every member of the local authority.
Furthermore, the resolution must declare the maximum number of persons who, for the purposes of the Act, may be employed as permanent servants by the local authority. The resolution, of course, may be amended on due notice. The adoption of such resolution will be a reserved function of the elected members who will have to consider, not only the claims of their servants but the taxable position of ratepayers.
The Bill contains a number of new basic principles as regards servants which have not so far been contained in superannuation law and I have no doubt that local authorities will in due course give the matter equitable consideration having regard to their own position and also that of their servants.
I have asked the Seanad if it could see its way to expedite the passing of the Housing Bill and I would ask it to pass this Bill as it stands without amendment. The Bill represents an agreement between many interested authorities, more or less. It was in grave danger of being jettisoned by reason of the approaching general election but I decided that I should endeavour to have it passed into law, if that could be done without undue delay or undue difficulty. It has involved a very serious strain not only upon me but upon the members of my staff. It is a far-reaching code and I think it is generally regarded as a very satisfactory code. It was passed through the Dáil on the basis I have outlined, that is to say, that the Government having considered all the requests that had been made to it, and having discussed these requests with other interests concerned, decided to make certain amendments to the Bill which, if they were accepted by the House, would assure its agreed passage through Dáil Eireann.
I am asking the Seanad to consider the measure in that light for this reason. A considerable number of officers, who retired early this year and in the latter part of last year, and who in the normal course, had it not been for their retirement under the Age Limit Order, would have been continued in the service of local authorities, would have been entitled to secure pensions based upon the present rates of remuneration prevailing. Because they retired before these rates of remuneration were accepted and agreed upon, they retired upon pensions which were considerably lower than those which they could otherwise have enjoyed. There are also, of course, a considerable number of officers who were affected by the operation of the Standstill Order and whose retiring allowances were accordingly based on the salaries which they were in receipt of at the date of retirement. All these people are vitally affected by the Bill and if there were to be any grave difference of opinion about it, such a difference of opinion as would involve a re-summoning of the other House or a prolonged discussion on the Bill, I could not accept the responsibility of asking the other House to meet to consider it. For that reason I would plead very strongly that the Bill should go through in its present form.