Pensions on table during public pay discussions

The thorny issues of pension contributions and restoration of pre-financial crisis hours formed the basis of the latest installment of talks between the Government and unions on a new public service pay deal.

The Government wants an increased contribution to their pensions from public servants to coincide with the unwinding of the pension levy.

No details were given by the Government in the latest discussion on how much of a contribution it will seek.

However, the pension levy is worth €720m to the exchequer and when talks intensify in the coming days, it is expected that the Government will look to continue to take in as much of that total as possible, while the unions will want to restrict contributions.

The Workplace Relations Commission, which is mediating the talks, has told the sides there are a number of complex issues around pensions which will need to be the subject of intense discussions.

The sides also discussed working hours yesterday, with the Government telling unions the additional hours which public servants have been working since the recession are worth €583m — rising to more than €620m when future employees are taken into account.

The Government has previously indicated that the retention of those hours is a red-line issue.

Sources have indicated that, while the restoration of hours is important to public sector workers, the best the unions can hope for on behalf of their members is a deal which would see workers able to choose to take reduced working hours in lieu of wage increases as part of the deal.

The trade unions which form the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will not be involved in the discussions today.

Instead the Government will meet with Garda representatives and the Alliance of Retired Public Servants. The latter is looking for pension restoration for 140,000 retired public servants. At this stage restoration is due to take place in 2021, but the alliance wants that brought significantly forward. It also wants the Government to address the situation whereby pensioners on low pensions — €12,000 or less — have not had an increase since 2007.

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