My Department gives support and funding to a number of VECs to operate Outdoor Education Centres. There are 12 centres in all. The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) lodged a claim with my Department for a substantial pay increase on behalf of the Directors of each of these Centres.
Following protracted negotiations, my Department consented to an ad hoc referral of the claim to the Labour Court. The Labour Court subsequently issued a non-binding recommendation on 9 February 2009 in respect of this claim.
I regret to inform you that, notwithstanding that the recommendation was made prior to the passage of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, this Labour Court recommendation cannot be implemented in the context of Section 5(1) of that Act. That subsection provides that where a reduction in pay was made on 1 January 2010 to a public servant's pay rate in accordance with Section 2 of the Act, the resulting pay rate may not be increased. Section 5(1) states that: "Where a relevant provision [i.e. that sets the pay rate] is taken to have been amended by section 2- (a) a public servant whose remuneration falls to be determined in accordance with the relevant provision is not entitled to receive remuneration of an amount greater than the amount so determined, and (b) no person or body responsible for paying the remuneration of such a public servant is entitled to pay remuneration to the public servant of an amount greater than the amount so determined."
It should be noted that the position taken in relation to this particular Labour Court recommendation is in line with government pay policy generally. You will appreciate that public service bodies are obliged to comply with the terms of that legislation, and indeed would be potentially liable to financial penalties, should they purport to act in contravention of its provisions.
In this context, I should also point out that, in accordance with the requirements under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, the Minister for Finance, Mr. Michael Noonan TD, completed a review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the legislation, having regard to the overall economic conditions in the State and national competitiveness in June 2011. The report concluded that there is a need to continue to apply the reductions provided for under the legislation. The report is available on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's website.
On 20 July 2011, an agreed statement was issued on the part of the Government and the Public Service Committee of the ICTU following the first review under the Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement. That statement noted that as committed to in the Agreement, adjudication findings that were outstanding at the time of the Agreement will be reviewed by the parties. The parties also noted, however, that the review, which is ongoing, will have to have regard to the terms of the Agreement, the moratorium on recruitment and promotion and the terms of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009.
Accordingly, my Department is not currently in a position to implement the Labour Court recommendation of 9 February 2009 in respect of the Directors of the VEC Outdoor Education Centres.