Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Questions (31, 36, 37, 38, 49, 51, 52)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

31. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which a capability exists to address the levels of lower pay imposed on members of An Garda Síochána, teachers, nurses and a number of other Public Servants arising from the downturn in the economy, given the disruptive effect this can have within the workplace; if he expects to be in a position to address these issues in the forthcoming or subsequent Budgets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19714/16]

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Paul Murphy

Question:

36. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will introduce changes to end the two tier system of pay and conditions in the Public Service that is particularly badly felt for new entrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19799/16]

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Mick Barry

Question:

37. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps he will take to end the two tier system of pay in the Public Service. [19761/16]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

38. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will end the new entrants pay differential across the public sector given the expanding economy and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19756/16]

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Bríd Smith

Question:

49. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has undertaken any study or research into the effect on the Public Service of the reduction in starting salaries of newly qualified teachers, nurses and other Public Servants. [19717/16]

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Dara Calleary

Question:

51. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost of ensuring full pay equality, including in respect of allowances for all public servants recruited post-2011 when compared with those employed pre-2011; his plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19744/16]

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Bríd Smith

Question:

52. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to reverse the reductions in the starting salaries of newly qualified teachers, nurses and other public sector workers. [19716/16]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Public)

My question attempts to ascertain the extent to which the Minister may find it within his capacity to assist more recent recruits throughout the public service, including gardaí and teachers, who find themselves employed at a lower level causing them difficulties in respect of housing, rent and the cost of living and to ascertain whether the Minister can identify a programme for restoration.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 36 to 38, inclusive, 49, 51 and 52 together.

For the majority of public servants, the difference in incremental salary scales between those public servants who entered public service employment since 2011 and those who entered before that date was addressed with the relevant union interests under the provisions of the Haddington Road agreement. There are, however, a number of areas across the public service where, due to the decision by the then Government in 2012 to cease payment of certain outdated allowances to employees recruited after that time, differences remain.

The Lansdowne Road agreement through the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI, Act 2015 is delivering a three-year programme at a full-year cost of €844 million in 2018. The agreement is also flexible enough to allow for the concerns of recent recruits to the public service to be addressed in a negotiated way and in return for workplace reform to drive greater productivity in the public service, as has already been agreed with representative bodies of one group of public servants. In that context, officials of my Department and the Department of Education and Skills agreed yesterday with the INTO and the TUI, both of whom are inside the agreement, to have engagement later this month to begin to fully scope out the issues involved regarding pay arrangements for newly qualified teachers.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The programme for Government also states that Government will establish a public service pay commission to examine pay levels across the public service, including any issues relating to new entrants' pay. The precise structure of such a commission and the technical aspects as to how it will operate have yet to be decided upon and will require broad consultation, including engagement with staff representatives as was committed to in the Lansdowne Road agreement.

I thank the Minister for his reply. To what extent is it within his capacity to encourage those who remain outside the Lansdowne Road agreement with a view to reducing the friction that continues to exist within those branches of the public service affected by the disparity in income and does he see an opportunity in the course of the negotiations that are taking place or are likely to take place to encourage those who remain outside the agreement to come within its scope?

It was a day of shame for the former Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, and the Labour Party when he cut the pay of new entrant teachers and other public servants, something that played a big part in the decimation of the Labour Party. It is really unconscionable that this pay apartheid continues. I know the Minister has talked about negotiations but we want to know when he will commit to getting rid of something that is just plain wrong and indefensible. Pensioners have also asked about whether the Minister is willing to fast track the rolling back of the pension cuts imposed under the FEMPI legislation. Can the Minister give some commitment about whether he is willing to speed up the process of restoring moneys to pensioners who, along with the young, were another group attacked by the FEMPI legislation?

The process in which the Minister has engaged with the Department of Education and Skills needs to be urgent. We have a brain drain with people leaving the country because they have to do so. We are losing this talent. In respect of new entrants in nursing and health care generally, are there any plans with other Departments to initiate a process for a similar review of pay and conditions for new entrants across the health care sector and other sectors who are in similar situations in respect of allowances and pay?

In respect of Deputy Durkan's question about how we can engage with unions outside the Lansdowne Road agreement, the Minister for Education and Skills and his Department have carried out significant work to gain the TUI's agreement to enter the Lansdowne Road agreement. The Minister has made very clear, as have I, that we will engage with unions who are outside the Lansdowne Road agreement to look to address issues that are of concern to them. However, we must do so in a way that respects the fact that 23 unions are inside the Lansdowne Road agreement. We will continue with that approach in the coming weeks and months where we will look to work with people. However, we must respect those who are inside the agreement.

In respect of the question about the brain drain, I have answered the questions from Deputy Boyd Barrett over the course of the afternoon. The Minister for Education and Skills and I are working with unions inside the Lansdowne Road agreement on matters of concern to them. This is why we initiated the discussion yesterday with the INTO and the TUI.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.