26/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Pay Talks Update: Sustainable and of substance

We’re back into the talks this morning (Friday, 26th May) after a day’s respite yesterday as we held a special delegate conference to restructure the union and the political fund of our union while our colleagues in IMPACT held its executive meeting.

On today’s agenda is working patterns (including Saturday working) performance management and recruitment. SIPTU representatives will be continuing to pursue our strategy of protecting the working conditions of all low – middle earners in the public service and to stand against the outsourcing of our members work.

In earlier updates, we explored the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s (DPER) ‘fiscal space’ presentation, which they made on day one of the talks. In it, they told us there would be €550 million of fiscal space in 2018, but that just €200 million would be left after existing commitments are met.

The pressure eases in the following years, with €1 billion expected to be available to spend in each of the following three years – 2019, 2020 and 2021. There will also be other calls on the four-year total of €3.2 billion, including demands for extra public service staffing.

But it’s not a lot to play with, especially next year. Unions usually work to ‘front-load’ pay deals, so that the biggest payments come early on. That looks like being very difficult this time While we recognise all this, pay restoration also brings a value to the State and its people and that line will continue to be pressed by SIPTU representatives.

SIPTU representatives accept that pay adjustments must be affordable and sustainable, but they also need to have substance. Otherwise, our members simply won’t back them in the ballots that must follow the negotiation process.

To put it another way, no deal will be accepted if it lacks substance. And if it’s not accepted, the Government and new Taoiseach won’t have the stability they seek and will be back on the doorsteps within weeks.

As ever, we will keep you informed of any developments on our website, social media and App.

25/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Pay Talks Update: Defending low/middle waged public service workers

SIPTU representatives have spent the last three days in pay talks defending the pensions, the pay and working conditions all low and middle waged workers in the public service.

The opening sessions yesterday (Wednesday, 25th May) on pension contributions, outsourcing, working hours and rostering are really about each side setting out its stall – and individual unions and departments making sure the issues vital to their own membership get on the agenda. SIPTU is no different.

The sessions also assist the independent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) facilitators to a good handle of the range and scope of the issues at hand, before the end game begins.

Yesterday afternoon’s short session on recruitment practices quickly led the WRC to declare that smaller sectoral meetings were needed. Earlier in the day, a more fractious session on pension contributions (as predicted, the Government wants most public servants to pay more towards their pensions) ended with the facilitators deciding to set up specific sessions on each of the complex and difficult issues involved.

This is likely to be the pattern for the rest of this week. Later on, red line positions on both sides will become clearer. And eventually the possible shape of the various aspects of a deal will emerge. Experience suggests that the pace will then pick up, before slowing down again as the most important and difficult issues are thrashed out in the dying hours of the process.

There was also a frank exchange on working time yesterday. Unions made clear the issue of the ‘Croke Park hours’ wasn’t going away, notwithstanding Minister Donohoe’s repeated ‘red line’ statements on the matter.

Unions will be returning to this in the coming days.

We’re back in on Friday as there is a SIPTU conference today and an IMPACT executive meeting. But we’ll have something for you tomorrow morning to close the weeks’ proceedings.

24/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Pay Talks Update: Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Yesterday, (Tuesday, 23rd May) we reported outsourcing was firmly on management’s agenda.

Management wants to weaken existing protections in the Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA), which prevent outsourcing on a ‘race to the bottom’ basis.

At present, if management wants to outsource a service or part of a service, the LRA requires it to consult with unions and produce a business plan setting out the case for what it calls ‘external service delivery.’

Crucially, it can’t cite labour costs or pay as part of the business plan.

Abandoning the ‘labour cost’ provision would mean pretty much every business case would support outsourcing – on the basis of minimum wage and a race to the bottom for services and working standards.

SIPTU representatives made it clear that there’d be no agreement that didn’t protect the hard-fought gains for working people in the public service.

Today (Wednesday, 24th, May) from 10.30 am, SIPTU representatives will set out the case for the restoration of the so-called ‘Croke Park hours’. This is won’t be easy, not least because Minister Paschal Donohoe has said keeping the additional hours is a ‘red line’ for him and Government.

We also expect to hear more from management on employee pension contributions.

One or two readers have asked us why we’re even discussing management’s productivity wish-list in talks that are meant to centre on pay restoration. It’s a fair question.

But, aside from the fact that the Public Service Pay Commission said additional productivity was required in exchange for pay restoration, the simple answer is that these are negotiations where either side can table whatever they want.

Unions want to talk about things management would sooner not discuss, and vice versa.

Later in the process, we’ll have a clearer picture of the bottom lines.

For the moment, union representatives remain absolutely focused on the key objectives of protecting the value of pensions and unwinding FEMPI as quickly as sustainably possible.

In the meantime, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

23/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Pay Talks Update: Outsourcing, rosters, contracts.

The second full session of pay talks adjourned today (Tuesday, 23rd May) shortly before 4 pm.

SIPTU Health representatives spent the session fully engaged in detailed and intense negotiations on outsourcing, apprenticeships and various other non-pay issues including rosters and contracts of indefinite duration.

Talks officially kicked off yesterday (Monday, 22nd May) with a finance department presentation on the broad economic outlook with major health warnings over Brexit and other external risks.

The presentation on the economic outlook by John McCarthy (Chief Economist at the Department of Finance) is available here.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) followed up with projections that suggested that 2018 will be the tightest of the next three years in terms of cash available for pay restoration and other spending priorities.

The presentation by Annette Connolly (Central Expenditure Management section in DPER) is available here.

DPER went on to outline its productivity wish-list in the afternoon, and unions set out their non-pay agenda items, including working hours. DPER issued a statement after the talks adjourned yesterday, saying it would not issue further statements until talks have concluded.

The Fine Gael leadership contest still looms large over the talks, as front-runner Leo Varadkar announced his intention to introduce legislation banning public sector workers from striking in ‘essential services’ if elected Taoiseach. Trade unionists and political parties were quick to criticise Dr Varadkar’s plans to erode workers’ rights to strike.

Our colleague Bernard Harbor described the pledge as ‘disproportionate’ given the relatively few days lost through industrial action, and unions’ responsible provision of emergency and essential cover on the rare occasions that strikes do occur.

As trade union members, we know all too well that our economic recovery was aided by responsible trade unions collectively bargaining with employers to ensure our public services weathered the worst economic storm in the history of the state.

We strongly believe that legislative attempt to restrict workers’ right to strike would be disproportionate and ultimately damaging to good industrial relations practice.

This is a major u-turn from the man predicted to be our next Taoiseach. When Dr Varadkar was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport he said the right to strike was a “pretty basic human right in most democracies.”

We will have a full update for members in the morning and an evening report on day three of the talks. Items on the agenda for day three include pensions, CID, recruitment and working time.

17/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Public service pay restoration and progression talks begin

Negotiations on public service pay restoration and pay progression are now underway. This follows the publication last week of the report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) 2017 last week.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The main objective of the PSPC in the talks is to set a timetable for the quickest possible restoration of pay cuts and the ending of the pension levy imposed on low and middle earning public service workers.

Our message is clear to Government, we want FEMPI wound-down and pay progression for lower paid staff who are no longer subject to FEMPI measures.

We agree with the minister when he calls for ‘sustainable’ pay increases in the media but any increase must also be of substance and ultimately be good enough to pass a ballot of our members.”

The publication last week of the PSPC report led the news headlines and drew some of the standard criticism of public servants and their pay and pensions.

SIPTU with our colleagues in IMPACT led the union response to this criticism with appearances on all the major news programmes on TV and radio, including Today with Sean O’Rourke,  RTÉ Primetime, and a comprehensive outline of the issues on the RTÉ Drivetime programme.

Read a summary of the PSPC report HERE.

Read the full PSPC report HERE.

DOWNLOAD THE SIPTU HEALTH APP HERE

09/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth
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Public Service Pay Commission Summary

  • Pensions under (2013) standard accrual ‘Single Public Service Pension Scheme’ are on a par with private sector DC schemes.
  • Depending on “a range of reasonable assumptions,” (pre-2013) legacy schemes are worth between 12% and 18% more than private sector schemes. It’s a matter for the parties to assess the information and agree on an evaluation of the value.
  • Fast accrual schemes more valuable again, with value depending on specific scheme.
  • Higher value of pre-2013 arrangements should be addressed through increased employee contribution, applied in agreed adjustments as PRD is discontinued

Pensions: supplementary notes

  • Most submissions to PSPC used reasonable and comparable methodologies. The difference is in the assumptions and “there are many possible valid approaches to deciding upon economic assumptions” and “different views can reasonably be taken.”
  • Assumptions include longevity, relationship with the state pension (and movements in state pension) and long-term investment returns.
  • Actuarial comparisons (including DPER’s) are with private sector organisations with occupational pension schemes (DC and DB).
  • 60% of private sector staff have no occupational pension, but PSPC says this is a ‘broader societal matter’ and a reasonable comparison should be between public and private sector workers with occupational pensions.
  • Milliman report (PSPC actuarial review) suggests a 13-14% public-private differential.
  • 50,000 members of post-2013 Single Public Service scheme.
  • 243,000 member of pre-2013 schemes.
  • 23,000 members of ‘fast-accrual’ schemes
  • The post-2013 single scheme differs by (1) employing career average (2) link to CPI (3) applying state pension minimum age.
  • 12% of the value of pensions was reflected in pay levels in 2007.
  • Public sector pension bill doubled from €1.5bn to €3bn between 2008 and 2016, but exceptional circumstances at play (eg, spate of crisis-period retirements).
  • The 2012 future public service pension liability fell 16% to €98bn between 2009 and 2012.
  • Public servants contribute between €500m and €550m PA.

PAY

  • By 2014, average public service pay “approaching parity” with private sector earnings (when you take account relevant characteristics like education, experience, etc).
  • Public service earnings trail the private sector at higher pay levels and outpace the private sector at lower levels.
  • In recent years, private sector pay settlements have been between 1.5% and 2.5% PA, depending on sector and ability to pay. For large companies, average increase over last two years was 2.5%.
  • Public service pay adjustments must be contingent on the delivery of reform and continuous improvement.

Pay: supplementary notes

  • Gross public service pay bill (net of PRD) fell 9% between 2007 and 2016 – down to €15.6bn from €16.6bn.
  • Average private sector pay was 3% above 2008 levels in 2016. Public service pay was 8% below 2008 levels in 2016. LRA will increase public sector earnings by 1.7% by 2018 (making them 6.5% lower in 2018 than in 2008).
  • The public-sector average earnings premium has declined and is approaching zero.
  • There is still a public service premium at the lower end of earnings, and for women.
  • Differences in earnings across sectors (including public-private) are due to characteristics of enterprises (eg, size, sector) and characteristics of employees (eg, gender, age, education, qualifications, responsibility, experience, the length of service, occupation).
  • Earnings distribution: In the private sector, those in top decile earn 6.9 times more than those in the bottom decile. In public service, the difference is 3.6 times.
  • 2007-2010: Private sector saw largest pay reductions among lowest earners and smallest reductions for highest earners. Opposite pattern in public service.
  • Public-private studies examined by PSPC take no account of PRD or company size. Models control for union membership between 2002 and 2014, but not in earlier years. The figures suggest trade union membership delivers a pay premium of 6%.

INCREMENTS

  • On average, public servants receive “significantly lower gains in earnings” for each additional year of experience compared to private sector counterparts with similar experience.

NEW ENTRANTS’ PAY

  • A recurring theme in submissions and a significant matter “on equity grounds” for cohorts concerned, but differences between employees, in pay and superannuation, not confined to public service.
  • “We found no evidence to support the view that reduced rates for new entrants represent a barrier to recruitment to the public service in general.”
  • Where they exist, recruitment problems should receive a separate comprehensive examination.

 

INTERNATIONAL PAY COMPARISONS

  • Difficult to draw definitive conclusions on International comparisons because of methodological differences in the data.
  • PSPC analysis is not ‘like for like,’ and doesn’t include PRD, tax, social insurance or other deductions.

International pay comparisons: supplementary notes

  • In predominantly public service sectors, Irish earnings are “among the highest” compared to similar EU and EFTA countries.

 

SECURITY OF TENURE

  • Security of tenure has a value, but there is no satisfactory scientific evidence that could reasonably be used to put a specific monetary value on it.
  • Increased prevalence of public service fixed term/service contracts means the security of tenure is “not a feature intrinsic to public service employment or extrinsic to private sector employment.”
  • However, public servants on permanent contracts are generally at lower risk of compulsory redundancy than those in the private sector.
  • Security of tenure also has a value to employers – recruitment, retention, retaining skills post-training, public want experienced staff with appropriate expertise.
  • The PSPC notes PSC argument that all concessions made since 2010 (Croke Park) motivated by a desire to protect employment, and it would be unacceptable to use this against.

RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION

  • No significant recruitment difficulties in the large-scale public service vocational streams, but some problems in specific areas including ‘internationally traded’ groups, particularly in the health sector. But remuneration, not the only factor.
  • The argument for revisiting previous flexibilities in pay scales in specialist and scarce areas, and for examining structural and organisational recruitment constraints.
  • Evidence of difficulties attracting candidates for senior leadership positions. Need to examine structural issues.
  • Areas where problems identified: psychologists and paramedics; top health management and consultants; mental health nursing and other specific nursing areas; radiography; public dentistry; various specific defence areas including aviation; senior execs and specialists across civil and public service.
  • Should consider commissioning a more comprehensive examination of underlying difficulties, where they exist.
  • In areas of recruitment difficulty, pay talks could examine measures like entry above minimum point, accelerated incremental progression and allowances.
  • It “may be appropriate” to revisit €200,000 ceiling on senior public service pay, though the pay isn’t the only issue causing recruitment difficulties.

Recruitment and retention: supplementary notes

  • Numbers fell to 288,300 in 2013 (10% fall); now 306,570. Biggest percentage fall in local government (still falling).
  • Health and education biggest increase since 2013 (10% increase in health since 2013 including: 11% management/admin, 13% AHP/social care; 5% nursing; 19% other patient and client care).
  • Health management/admin fell 16.2% between 2007-2014 (compared to 12.3% all grades, 12.3% nursing and 13.1% AHP/social care). Biggest drop except general support staff (27.9%).
  • Health turnover rates significantly lower if trainees (including student nurses) excluded. And they are distorted by movement within the health sector.
  • Turnover rates (excluding trainees) are significantly higher for therapists and health professionals than for nursing (page 59).
  • PAS says civil service specialists can earn “at least” 30% more outside civil service.
  • Challenge to attract executives across the civil and public service. Pension is no longer seen as an incentive, and lack of performance bonus, car and health packages identified by PAS as disincentives. The number of private sector applicants for top posts down to 22% in 2015, from 45% in 2014.
  • Some challenge to fill local authority technical and specialist posts, but no issue in admin.
  • Defence sector losing specialists (including aviation, IT and engineer grades) to better-paid private sector work. A “significant exit” of these grades.
  • No problem recruiting Garda or teachers (though INTO says entry pay a problem).
  • The private sector has higher churn than public service, which has ‘job stayer rate’ of 90% over age 35, 80% (age 25-35), and 53% (age 20-24).
  • “We found no evidence to support the view that reduced rates for new entrants represent a barrier to recruitment to the public service in general.”
  • PSC and union submissions raised pay, new entrant pay, allowance for new entrants, working hours, geographical issues, non-payment of outstanding awards, etc, as factors.

WORKING HOURS

  • The issue raised in PSC and union submissions.
  • 15 million additional hours introduced by HRA, not FEMPI. Therefore, a matter for the parties, not the Commission.
  • PSPC analysis of public-private pay comparisons takes account of working time.

OVERTIME AND PREMIUM PAYMENTS

  • Not covered by FEMPI, so outside PSPC terms of reference.
  • PSPC analysis of public-private pay comparisons takes account of overtime and premium payments.
  • Matter for the parties.

ABILITY TO PAY

  • There is a basis for the parties to enter pay negotiations, but the State’s ability to pay, and competing demands on the public purse, are critical factors.
  • It will be a matter for the parties to negotiate a timeframe for the orderly unwinding of FEMPI, having regard to maintaining sustainable national finances and competitiveness, other spending priorities, public service reform, and equity considerations.

ITEMS OUTSIDE PSPC TERMS OF REFERENCE

  • Issues raised included outstanding pay adjudications/recommendations and working conditions.
  • Parties should consider the appropriate process to deal with these.
  • Parties should consider the process to deal with grade-specific adjudications.

Items outside terms of reference: supplementary notes

  • 43 submissions received. PAY AND PUBLIC SPENDING

“Employee compensation as a percentage of general government expenditure in Ireland was 25% compared with 21% for the Euro area and 21% for the UK. However, Ireland’s general government expenditure as a percentage of GDP at 29.4% lagged behind the Euro area (48.5%) and the UK (42.9%).”  Gross public pay bill (net of PRD) down 9% between 2007 and 2016.

Read the full report HERE.