Union warns against repeal of law cutting pay

One of the country’s largest public sector unions has warned that the complete repeal of the legislation which cut the pay and pensions of State employees during the recession would see high earners gain substantially more than their lower-paid colleagues.

In a blog post to the union membership, Impact’s head of communication Bernard Harbor said a complete reversal of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act (Fempi) would give a worker on €30,000 a total gain of less than €450 a year, while someone earning €125,000 would stand to gain almost €20,000.

“Few union members would thank their negotiators for delivering such a regressive outcome,” he wrote. “Instead, Impact believes we should negotiate deals that deliver continuing improved living standards for those on low and middle incomes, with a fair and balanced unwinding of Fempi for all over time. Because, as the recovery strengthens we need to return to normal industrial relations where pay is set by agreement, not legislation.”

Last week, the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions wrote to Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe demanding the repeal of Fempi.

“While all unions want to see the back of this divisive legislation, we are now grappling with the realities of meeting different priorities when it comes to restoring what was lost during the economic crisis,” said Mr Harbor. “Opinions differ both within and between unions.”

He said they agreed low and middle-income earners should be prioritised, but unions representing higher paid staff who lost most in absolute and percentage terms, say their members mustn’t be forgotten either.

However, he said others would argue restoring working time is as, or more, important than the money.

“For others, including younger staff in parts of the public sector, changes to allowances or even overtime had as big an impact on pay packets as the pay cuts themselves,” he said.

Mr Harbor pointed out that last year’s Lansdowne Road deal, which started the process of pay recovery in the public service, was also put into effect by amending Fempi.

“The Lansdowne Road improvements demonstrate that Fempi can be a vehicle for staged pay restoration,” he said. “The Department of Public Expenditure says the public service pay adjustments will cost €844m a year over the lifetime of the deal. There’s also a €90m price tag attached to reducing the levy on public service pensions.”


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