Lansdowne Road Proposals Frequently asked questions

Why did the talks take place now?

At the time of the negotiation of the Haddington Road Agreement, the ICTU Public Services Committee took the precaution of writing to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform advising that if the State’s finances improved to a degree that would enable the exchequer to cope, we could lodge a claim seeking improvements.

In the absence of this letter the management side would have been able to argue that no talks were due until the end of the Haddington Road Agreement in June 2016. This proposed agreement enables income recovery to commence in January 2016 – six months earlier than would otherwise apply. Furthermore, it was recognised that a delay in commencing talks would have run the risk of public servants’ income becoming part of a politicised budget debate.

What increases are contained in the Proposals?

On 1st January 2016 the exemption threshold for payment of the pension levy will increase from €15,000 per annum to €24,750 per annum. This will reduce the pension levy by €600 per annum for all public servants earning above the threshold. On 1st January 2016 annualised salaries up to €24,000 will increase by 2.5% through a partial reversal of the 2010 public service pay cuts. On 1st January 2016 annualised salaries from €24,001 up to €31,000 will increase by 1% via the same mechanism.

On 1st September 2016 the exemption threshold for payment of the pension levy will increase further from €24,750 per annum to €28,750 per annum. This will further reduce the pension levy by €400 per annum for all public servants earning above this threshold. The combination of these measures in 2016 will improve all public service full-time incomes by around €1,000 per annum. On 1st September 2017 annualised salaries up to €65,000 are increased by €1,000.

The Proposals refer to ‘annualised salary’. What is that?

Annualised (basic) salary is the annual salary paid to a full-time employee. Employees who do not work full-time hours earn a percentage of the annualised salary based on their working hours. For example, if an employee is on 50% job sharing, they earn half the ‘annualised salary’ for the position.

How will the increases apply to part-time staff?

Non full-time staff will receive pro rata increases based on the January 2016 and September 2017 increases in annualised salaries. As the pension levy applies to annual income in each calendar year, the benefits for non full-time staff will vary.

Will increments be affected by these Proposals?

No. Under the Haddington Road Agreement there was provision for a three-month increment delay for staff earning under €35,000, two three-month delays for staff earning between €35,000 and €65,000, and two six-month delays for staff earning over €65,000. There is a three-year freeze for staff on salaries starting over €100,000. Once these liabilities are discharged, no further delays arise for any of the categories. Specifically, no delays are created by the Lansdowne Road Proposals.

What will happen to staff who earn more than €65,000?

All public servants, irrespective of their salary, will benefit from the reduction in the pension levy in 2016. In the case of staff who earn more than €65,000 their pension levy will be reduced by €1,000. An important aspect of the Proposals is that it is confirmed that pay restoration for these staff, negotiated as part of the Haddington Road Agreement, will apply on 1st April 2017 and on 1st January 2018.

What happens to the ‘grace period’ under the LRP?

Under the Lansdowne Road Proposals, the Government has indicated that it intends to provide in the legislation for
a further extension of the ‘grace period’ during which both the reduction in pay and any deferral of increment progression, provided for under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2013, will be disregarded for pension purposes. The original ‘grace period’ under the Haddington Road Agreement ran to June 2015. Unions successfully argued for its extension until the expiry of the proposed agreement.

How will take home pay be affected?

The effect on take home pay from the reduction in the pension levy will vary depending on an individual’s income and tax rate. The pension levy currently attracts income tax relief in the same way as pension contributions. When the levy is reduced this tax relief will also be reduced. In essence, the final take home benefit of the €1,000 gross reduction of the levy will vary depending on whether the individual pays tax at the standard rate of 20% or the marginal rate of 40%.

Why are the changes to working hours, twilight payments and overtime rates, agreed under the Haddington Road Agreement, remaining?

The changes to working hours, twilight payments and overtime rates, agreed under the Haddington Road Agreement, were not time limited to the duration of the agreement. Reducing working hours and restoring twilight payments and overtime rates were raised by the union side in the negotiations but the management side was emphatic that it had no mandate from the Government to make any concessions on these issues. There is nothing in this proposed agreement that prevents unions seeking concessions on these issues in a future agreement.

Do the Proposals alter any terms and conditions?

No. In contrast to the Haddington Road Agreement there will be no changes to individual terms and conditions such as working hours, annual leave or sick leave.

Why are the Proposals phased?

Phasing the pay increases allowed the union aspirations to be met in the context of the Government budget frame- work. This is a common feature of agreements in the public and private sectors.

Do the Proposals address outsourcing?

The Parties agreed to reaffirm and strengthen commitments on the use of direct labour to the greatest extent possi- ble, consistent with the efficient and effective delivery of public services. Where any dispute arises on the application of this commitment, the parties will seek to resolve any matter directly and, where this fails, to use the dispute reso- lution mechanisms in the Proposals.

Earlier commitments on consultation and evaluation must be undertaken prior to any outsourcing of an existing service taking place and – significantly – in the evaluation process any cost comparisons shall exclude the totality of labour costs which includes basic pay, leave, premium payments and pension benefits.

Will pensioners benefit from the Lansdowne Road Proposals?

Pensions are not directly covered by the Proposals. However, in a separate engagement with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Public Services Committee and the Alliance of Retired Public Servants, the management side confirmed that pensions will be increased by way of a reduction in the Pensions Related Deduction made from pensions in payment.

The threshold for the deduction will be increased from its current level of €12,000 – leading to a maximum increase of €900 per annum over the period 2016-17 – which means a total of 80,000 out of 140,000 public service pensioners being exempted from the deduction during this period.

Are there changes to the disputes resolution procedures under the Lansdowne Road Proposals?

No. The Labour Relations Commission (LRC), in commending the proposed agreement to the parties, confirmed that all existing dispute resolution procedures, including sectoral arrangements provided for under the Haddington Road Agreement, continue to apply.

Is there an overall ‘no strike’ agreement?

No. As is normal, the Proposals provide that strikes or other forms of industrial action are precluded in respect of any matters covered by an agreement, where the parties are acting in accordance with its provisions. This is the same clause that was contained in the Croke Park, Haddington Road and previous agreements. There are no prohibitions on strikes or other forms of industrial action on any matters not covered by the Proposals.

Why is the Irish Water Programme mentioned?

The Proposals mention Irish Water in order to provide the means by which our Local Authority workers, who work under Service Level Agreements to the Water Programme, can be engaged with and consulted on changes in their workplace.

Is job evaluation being re-introduced in the Health Sector and Higher Education Sector?

Yes. It is agreed that, if the Lansdowne Road Proposals are ratified, the relevant management and unions will meet to conclude arrangements on the conduct and scope of job evaluation exercises in the Health Sector for Support Staff and Officer Grades. In the Higher Education Sector there will be job evaluation in respect of Library, Clerical, Administrative and Support Grades subject to departmental approval.

Are Section 39 funded bodies covered by the Proposals?

No. Staff in Section 39 funded bodies are not covered by the Proposals. However, the relevant sections will be seeking to engage with the individual employers with a view to unwinding some of the measures put in place in these employments over the last few years.

The Proposals set up a process to ensure that there will be a requirement in their Service Level Agreements that will oblige them to utilise the industrial relations machinery of the State. There is a process to address zero hour contracts and pension gratuity payments for Home Helps.

Do the Proposals affect the current arrangements for the CORU and NMBI fees?

Yes. It is agreed that, if the Lansdowne Road Proposals are ratified, the commitment under the Haddington Road Agreement to freeze the CORU and NMBI fees at €100 per annum will be extended to the expiry of the proposed agreement.