10/13/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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08/10/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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SIPTU members support Public Service Agreement by large majority

SIPTU members have voted by a large majority to accept the proposals in the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. Following a count of ballots in Liberty Hall today, SIPTU Vice President, Gene Mealy, said that 76% voted in favour of the proposals with 24% against.

The Agreement, which is an extension to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, provides for pay restoration and other improvements for workers in the public service.

“Our members in the public service have endorsed the proposed Agreement in line with a recommendation by the National Executive Council of the union. However, we are conscious that a lot of work needs to be undertaken in a number of areas where important issues remain unresolved.

“These include concerns over pay disparities for new entrants, overtime rates, recruitment and retention issues and the restoration of allowances. We will also insist that management ensures that the employment protection measures, which are central to the proposed Agreement, are implemented in the event that it is ratified at a meeting next month of the Public Services Committee of the ICTU,” Gene Mealy said.

08/04/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Postal Ballot Application Closed

A national ballot of SIPTU members is currently taking place and will close on Wednesday, 9th August.

If you have not had the opportunity send back your postal ballot please do so by Wednesday, 9th August. The result of the ballot will be announced on Thursday, 10th August.

An information booklet about the agreement is available here.

07/23/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Sunday Read – Preserving Pension Certainty

One of the main negotiating priorities at the recent public sector pay talks was to provide members with certainty surrounding the value of their pensions – it was right up there with pay restoration and maintaining protections against privatisation.

Prior to the negotiations, the Government made clear its intention to attack the value of public service pensions. They had already passed (though not triggered) legislation to allow pensions to be indexed to inflation instead of the preferable existing link between pensions and salaries.

The government also flew its kites in the media about calculating all pensions on the basis of ‘career average’ earnings, instead of the more favourable final salary-based pension now in place for most. SIPTU, IMPACT and other unions were able to negotiate an agreement that stopped both these measures, which would have substantially reduced the value of pensions, from happening.

But every hard-fought victory has a price, and our members will now decide now if it was a price worth paying.

But first some context, the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC), whose May report had informed the Government agenda going into the talks, recommended that most public servants should pay more towards their pensions. This reflected the fact that public service pensions are worth between 12% (the union estimate) and 18% (the employer’s) more than those available in the private sector.  Other areas of the employer’s agenda could be fought off but it was impossible to simply stonewall a PSPC recommendation that the Government was determined to push through.

The end result is that an ‘additional superannuation contribution’ or ASC will replace some – though not all – of the so-called pension levy which will, in turn, be reduced by €575 a year over the lifetime of the deal.

The amount of post-pension levy ASC paid will vary depending on how much you earn. By 2020, a public service worker earning €35,000 per annum will pay €50 (or 0.14% of salary) in ASC each year. A worker on €45,000 a year will pay €1,300 (or 2.9% of salary). Those on €55,000 will pay €2,300, or 4.2% of salary.

There are two important caveats. Staff who joined the public service after January 2013 will pay a significantly lower ASC to reflect the fact that their pensions are not yet on par with pre-2013 arrangements.

And those on ‘fast accrual’ pensions (mainly firefighters, prison officers, Gardai and soldiers) will pay more as to reflect their pension benefits.

The ASC comes on top of the 6.5% that virtually all public service workers already pay towards their pensions, but the so-called pension levy will be gone.

And, when pay adjustments are taken into account, there will be a net gain of 7-7.5% for 73% of public service workers and every SIPTU member working in health will be removed from the FEMPI legislation.

When SIPTU’s elected national executive council met to discuss the proposals, it considered that the additional contributions were on balance a price worth recommending in exchange for the substantial gain of keeping the value of pensions intact, protecting our members against the threat of wholesale privatisation and given our members early pay restoration and a roadmap to pay progression.

Importantly, union negotiators also ensured that the proposed pay deal specifically links the additional superannuation contribution to the existing level of pension benefits. By spelling it out in black and white that the ASC “is intended to underpin the sustainability of public service pensions” the agreement makes it far more difficult for future Governments to interfere with your hard-fought for pension benefits.

When pay adjustments are taken into account, there will be a net gain for everyone – through pay restoration (6.8% – 9% for all SIPTU members) job security and certainty over the value of your pension when you retire.

Don’t leave it to others. Read the agreement. Have your say. Use your vote.

Public Service Stability Agreement – For Certainty, For Security, For Progress click here

06/22/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Statement by the SIPTU National Executive Council on the Proposals for a Public Service Stability Agreement

The National Executive Council of SIPTU met on Thursday, 22nd June 2017, to consider the proposals for a Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020.

Having considered the matter in full, we have decided to recommend acceptance of the proposals, on balance, as the benefits, such as the protections against outsourcing in particular, as well as other positive elements, outweigh the potential for what might be gained by running the risk of rejection.

In the event of acceptance, we will vigorously pursue implementation of all elements of the proposals. In particular, we will insist on full implementation of Clause 4.1.3. which envisages a process to satisfactorily resolve the issue of pay for new entrants.

Balloting of members will commence on Monday, 3rd July and conclude on Wednesday, 9th August. Counting of votes will take place on Thursday 10th August.

SIPTU National Executive Council

06/15/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Union to decide position on Lansdowne Road Agreement extension

The SIPTU National Executive Council is to consider the position of the union towards the proposed extension of the Lansdowne Road Agreement for members in the public service.

The proposed extension emerged following nearly three weeks of intense negotiations, between trade unions representing workers across the public sector and Government representatives, which concluded earlier this month.

The NEC will decide whether to make a recommendation to SIPTU members in the public service to vote to accept or reject the proposal.

Read a breakdown of the proposals here

06/08/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Proposed Public Service Stability Agreement FAQs

The Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill passed in the Dail this month and enabled the implementation of PSSA pay adjustments including a 1% increase from 1st January.

More significantly, it establishes a legal timetable for the dismantling of the hated FEMPI legislation. This is what SIPTU and other unions have been working for since the pension levy was first imposed on public servants in 2009.

The PSSA will see pay restoration for all those earning up to €70,000 a year by the end of 2020 while also preserving the value of public service pensions. Low paid workers will be completely out of FEMPI pension levy provisions by 2020. This will be done by increasing the pension levy ceiling from €28,750 to €34,500 for all workers.

This will be worth a total of €575 per year.

What do the proposals mean for my income overall? (Read the PSSA in full here)

  • By 2020, more than 90% of public servants will be out of FEMPI pay provisions, and almost a quarter will have exited FEMPI pension levy payment
  • 73% of public servants gain more than 7% by 2020
  • 1st January 2018: 1% pay adjustment
  • 1st October 2018: 1% pay adjustment
  • 1st January 2019: Pension levy threshold up from €28,750 to €32,000 (worth €325pa)
  • 1st January 2019: 1% pay adjustment for those earning less than €30,000
  • 1st September 2019: 1.75% pay adjustment
  • 1st January 2020: Pension levy threshold increased to €34,500 (worth €250pa)
  • 1st January 2020: annualised salaries up to €32,000 to increase by 0.5%
  • 1st October 2020: 2% pay adjustment

The Lansdowne Road agreement was due to expire in September 2018. The proposed Public Service Stability Agreement implements the first tranche of pay restoration from January 2018.

  • A combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth 7.4% to those earning €30,000 a year or less, over the lifetime of a deal.
  • A combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth between 7.0% AND 7.4% to those earning between €30,000 and €50,000 a year, over the lifetime of a deal.
  • A combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth 7% to those earning between €50,000 and €55,000 a year, over the lifetime of a deal
  • A combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth between 6.6% and 6.9% for those between €55,000 and €80,000 a year, over lifetime of a deal

This table sets out the combined pay and pension levy adjustments in different salary bands.

Column 6 of the main table shows the total percentage adjustment for staff employed before January 2011 (excluding those with ‘fast accrual’ pension arrangements). Column 4 of the second table shows the same for staff employed after that date.

What about the restoration of the Haddington Road pay cuts?

The 2011 Haddington Road agreement introduced temporary pay cuts for staff who earned €65,000 a year or more. This was a third pay cut, which didn’t apply to staff on less than €65,000 a year. The restoration of these cuts began in April 2017. Full restoration of this cut will be implemented, as previously agreed, on 1st January 2018.

Is there any good news for ‘new entrants’ – people who started work after 2011?

It should be recalled that unions secured an agreement in 2013 to merge the new entrant pay scales with the pre-existing pay scales.

The new entrant pay scales had been introduced by the Government in 2011, without agreement. The effect of the 2013 improvement was to place the new entrants on the old rates albeit with two additional incremental points.

The proposals would establish a 12-month process in which the Public Service Pay Commission will explore how best to improve pay scales that were lengthened. Unions wanted to remove some scale points to boost incomes for new entrants and equalise the number of years it takes for pre – and post- 2010 entrants to reach the top of pay scales.

However, management refused to simply remove the two additional scale points, which were added to the bottom of many pay scales. These points were introduced as part of the deal that did away with entirely different pay scales – worth 10% less than older staff on every point of the scale – which was imposed without an agreement in 2010.

Is the pension levy being clawed back through additional pension contributions?

Between 2018 and 2019 the pension levy ceiling will be increased from €28,750 to €34,500 for all staff except those who benefit from ‘fast accrual’ pension arrangements. This will be worth a total of €575 per year. The remainder will remain as an additional pension contribution.

Staff who joined the public service on or after 1st January 2013 will pay a smaller additional contribution. This reflects the fact that their pension benefits are less favourable than staff who joined before that date.

Staff who are currently on ‘fast accrual’ pension arrangements (i.e. where it takes fewer years’ service to accrue full pension benefits) will make additional pension contributions.

SIPTU has worked to ensure the highest possible threshold for the additional pension benefits. And we also ensured that the value of pensions is unchanged, despite suggestions that future pension years would be calculated on a less- valuable ‘career average’ basis, and that future pension increases should be linked to inflation rather than pay movements.

Going into the talks, the Government was adamant that public servants should pay more towards their pensions. This was on foot of a Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) recommendation, which said pension contributions should increase to reflect the fact that public service pensions are worth more, on average, than those in the private sector. In the event, it wasn’t possible to simply ignore a specific PSPC recommendation.

What’s been agreed on outsourcing and agency staffing?

There has been no change to existing outsourcing protections that unions won in the Croke Park and Haddington Road negotiations.

Management wanted to water down existing protections that require management to consult with unions and produce a business plan setting out the case for what it calls ‘external service delivery’ if it wanted to outsource a service or part of a service. Crucially, it can’t cite labour costs (i.e. pay) as part of the business plan. They also wanted to amend the rules to allow projects worth €10 million or less to be outsourced without reference to existing protections, or any consultation.

This is a considerable victory for SIPTU and the wider trade union movement as abandoning the ‘labour cost’ provision would mean pretty much every business case would support outsourcing – on the basis of minimum wage and rock-bottom workers’ rights – regardless of the impact on service quality and worker protections. We’ve avoided that in these talks.

On agency staffing, the proposals require management to engage with unions with a view to minimising the use of agency staff as much as possible.

Will I have to work Saturdays if I back these proposals?

No. The proposals allow for reviews of rostering arrangements if service needs or operational needs suggest they might be necessary. But they also acknowledge the need for rosters to ensure ‘predictability of attendance,’ and says no roster changes can be introduced without agreement.

Is there any reduction in working time?

There is no general reduction in working hours. However, there is new provision that gives staff the option of a permanent return to ‘pre-Haddington Road’ hours on the basis of a pro-rata pay adjustment. Staff can opt into this arrangement at the beginning of a new deal (January-April 2018) or at the end (January-April 2021).

There is also provision to convert annual leave into flexitime, which could help staff with temporary need for more flexible working arrangements.

Although these two provisions fall far short of the restoration of additional hours, they at least give options to staff for whom time is more important than money. This was the best outcome available in the current talks.

Unions wanted a return to pre-2011 hours. However, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, and his officials were adamant that they would not do a deal that restored working time lost under previous agreements (the so-called ‘Croke Park hours’). Unions repeatedly raised the issue, but the other side would not budge, saying the additional working time was worth a total of over €583 million to €621 million a year – money that would in any case come out of the pay-restoration pot if conceded.

Will my Saturday premium payment disappear if I back these proposals?

No. There will be no change to existing Saturday premium payments.

Are there any changes to overtime payments?

From the outset in January 2018, non-pensionable overtime payments would no longer be subject to the pension levy. This would increase the value of overtime payments by around 10%.

Unions called for the full restoration of overtime rates, which were cut during the emergency, but management was not prepared to concede this in the context of other aspects of income restoration.

There is no change to the civil service overtime divisor.

Does it address the mandatory retirement age?

The proposals concede that issues for employees who must retire at 65, now that the state pension is paid at age 66, “need to be addressed as soon as possible,” and says that unions will be consulted over Government proposals on the matter.

Work-life balance

The proposals commit management to ensure that work-life balance arrangements (including flexible working) are available to the greatest possible extent across the public service. They say disputes of local and sectoral implementation of work-life balance arrangements can be processed through normal disputes resolution processes. And they say management in each sector must monitor progress on gender balance in career progression.

Recruitment and retention issues

The proposals say unions can make submissions to the Public Service Pay Commission on recruitment and retention issues identified in its report. The Commission will then do an analysis of the causes of the problems in each specific area and recommend options to deal with them by the end of 2018. The implementation of the Commission’s recommendations will then be considered by unions and management.

The proposals also commit the parties “to discuss” more open recruitment “where this is appropriate to meet particular organisational needs.”

It also includes safeguards over the use of internships, clinical placements, work experience and job activation measures by saying there must be “agreement on protocols” on cooperation with such programmes.

Starting pay on promotion

The proposals acknowledge barriers to mobility in the public service and contains a commitment to a review of the current arrangements on starting pay and transfer and promotion in the public service.

CORU and other professional registration fees

The proposals would fix CORU and other professional registration fees at their current rate, at least until the expiry of an agreement in December 2020.

Outstanding adjudications

The proposals contain a commitment to a process to deal with outstanding adjudications, “having due regard to their continued validity and cost,” which will conclude by the end of September 2018.

Is there anything on performance management?

The proposals require performance management systems to be introduced in parts of the public service where they aren’t already in place.

If I’m paid weekly, will this change?

In circumstances and subject to consultation payroll operations can be modified.

Other productivity measures

The proposals say productivity measures set out in the Lansdowne Road agreement will continue to apply and will be updated to reflect various renewal policies, which are named in the text.

Do the proposals prohibit strikes/industrial action?

As with all previous public service agreements, industrial action is ruled out in situations where the employer is abiding by the agreement. As usual, the proposals include a binding process for dealing with problems that arise without recourse to industrial action. These restrictions do not extend to matters not covered by the agreement.

Why did the negotiations happen now?

The Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA) is due to expire in September 2018, although there were no further pay adjustments scheduled between now and then. For over a year, the unions have been seeking accelerated pay restoration.

Initially, the Government resisted, but last December it conceded the point following the publication of Labour Court recommendations on Garda pay. On foot of talks with unions, the Government agreed to (1) bring forward a scheduled 2017 pay adjustment of €1,000 a year from September to April 2017 and (2) to open talks in May on an extension to the LRA.

By bringing the process forward, under these proposals SIPTU and other unions can achieve acceleration of pay restoration from September 2018 to January 2018, if they are accepted by members in the public service.

What would be the duration of a deal?

It would run from 1st January 2018 to 31st December 2020. The duration of a deal ensures that over 90% of public servants (those earning up to around €70,000) will be out of the FEMPI pay cuts by the expiry of the proposed agreement (see table 3).

Read a letter from SIPTU Vice President, Gene Mealy here

06/08/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Proposals for an extension of the Lansdowne Road agreement

This is a summary of the main points of the outcome of negotiations on a proposed extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement.

The final decision on whether the proposals are agreed will be determined by ballots of members of the unions concerned.

Main points

  • Duration of proposal: 1st January 2018 to 31st December 2020
  • By 2020, more than 90% of public servants will be out of FEMPI pay provisions, and almost a quarter will have exited FEMPI pension levy payments
  • 73% of public servants gain more than 7% by 2020.

Pay and pension levy

  • 1st January 2018: 1% pay adjustment
  • 1st October 2018: 1% pay adjustment
  • 1st January 2019: Pension levy threshold up from €28,750 to €32,000 (worth €325pa)
  • 1st January 2019: 1% pay adjustment for those earning less than €30,000
  • 1st September 2019: 1.75% pay adjustment
  • 1st January 2020: Pension levy threshold increased to €34,500 (worth €250pa)
  • 1st October 2020: 2% pay adjustment.

Value of combined pay and pension levy adjustments 

  • Combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth 7.4% to those earning €30,000 a year or less, over lifetime of the deal
  • Combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth between 7.4% and 7.1% to those earning between €30,000 and €50,000 a year, over the lifetime of deal.
  • Combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth 7% to those earning between €50,000 and €55,000 a year, over lifetime of deal
  • A combination of pay and pension levy adjustments worth between 6.6% and 6.9% for those between €55,000 and €80,000 a year, over the lifetime of the deal.

Pensions

  • No change in the value of pensions. No move to CPI link for increases over the lifetime of the agreement. Pay-pension link to continue. No career average calculation for future service.
  • Highest additional pension contribution for those on ‘fast accrual’ pensions – lowest for post-2013 entrants in new ‘single’ pension arrangement.

Other provisions

  • No weakening of outsourcing protections
  • No change in working hours, but facility to revert to pre-Haddington Road hours with commensurate pay adjustment
  • No extension of Saturday working: Facility to review rostering arrangements for groups, but no change without agreement
  • An end to pension levy on non-pensionable earnings, including overtime
  • Process to address longer pay scales for new (post-2010) entrants
  • Process to assess recruitment and retention problems
  • No increase in CORU fees over lifetime of deal
  • Commitments on work-life balance arrangement

A more detailed summary (and a full text of the proposals) will be available on the SIPTU Health website as soon as possible and as always they will be available on our App

06/07/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Pay Talks Update: Deal or no deal?

The pay talks at the Workplace Relations Commission ended late last night (Tuesday, 6th June) in order to provide an opportunity for management to get crunching on their numbers.

Leaving the talks, SIPTU representatives expressed their disappointment about what they described as an extremely negative engagement with the management side. Several felt it was extremely difficult to see any way to resolve the remaining outstanding sectoral issues.

We are now in the final hours of this talks process and the gap between the two sides remains significant, with no guarantee that a new agreement can be reached.

The only crunching left to do is about pay and pensions. As of yet, despite over two weeks of talks, unions have not formally been given a piece of paper with the amount of money available to fund what is expected to be a three-year proposal.

SIPTU representatives reconvene for the next talks session at 2.30 p.m. this afternoon (Wednesday, 7th June).

Within a couple of hours, we’ll have a better handle on whether or not the attempt to find an acceptable balance at these pay talks will succeed in seeing a set of proposals hammered out that members could be asked to accept or reject in a ballot.

If they do, we will then move to clear up the non-pay agenda and focus on putting a final package together.

06/06/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Pay Talks Update: Working towards an acceptable balance

After two weeks of talks, all sides now agreed that today (Tuesday, 6th June) they have entered the end game. The next 48 hours will be crucial with pay and pensions due to take centre stage.

Most of last week at the talks was spent working on non-pay issues, with SIPTU representatives reiterating again to management that “not a comma or a full stop” can be changed on outsourcing.

The government says it shares the Congress goal of unwinding the income-cutting FEMPI measures over time. However, with the Government claiming that it only has a limited fiscal space (€200 million) there is serious doubt that any proposal which may emerge from the talks will pass a ballot of union members.

Any agreement must contain a clear path out of FEMPI for most public servants, plus improved incomes for lower paid SIPTU members who have already been removed from being covered by this economic emergency legislation. If exchequer pressures mean that it’s going to take time to do this – or that payments must be back-loaded over the lifetime of a deal – management can forget about their unrealistic ‘productivity’ demands tabled last week.

We know the Government wants to increase employee pension contributions as the existing pension levy is unwound, discussion on this issue likely to take feature heavily this week at the talks. This week we’ll know who will be asked to pay, and how much.

SIPTU representatives will work to increase the thresholds as much as possible. The other side will want to maximise the take.

Striking that fine balance between these competing demands will determine whether members say deal or no deal.