With negotiations on public pay due to begin shortly, union representative have conceded that those still on lucrative legacy and accelerated pensions will have to pay more.
Union sources agree that a three-tier system of pension contributions will have to be brought in, with gardaí, judges and government ministers — who are all on fast accrual schemes — to pay the highest rates.
A senior union source close to the upcoming talks has also said that pay restoration will be difficult in 2018 and there will be no front-loading of the unwinding of pay cuts next year.
But speaking at Impact’s local government and local services division conference in Donegal last night, divisional cathaoirleach Sean Reid said the negotiations must lead to the unwinding of crisis-era pay cuts “in the quickest possible time,” while protecting the value of public service pensions.
While nurses have been vocal about the difficulties in recruitment and retention, union heads have dismissed the calls for a hike in salaries to lure staff by stating that extra pay cannot be included in any successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
“The only likely outcome of the talks is that we would seek to get the other side to agree an mechanism where these things would be examined and tested as opposed to just an x and y outcome.
“If somebody is arguing that they need a pay increase the public service just doesn’t give it, the public service always puts it into a process,” said a union source.
“If it turned out that there are pockets of the public service that you can’t get people or you can’t keep people then first of all you would need to be sure, and once you are sure could you come up with a solution to that that doesn’t upset the apple cart?”
A report of the Public Sector Pay Commission, published this week, highlighted the lucrative pensions which the majority of public-sector workers are on and called for the introduction of a contribution to pay towards these benefits.
Those who joined before 2013 — which amounts to 243,000 workers — or are on fast accrual schemes — another 25,000 workers — enjoy pensions which are between 12% and 18% more valuable than in the private sector.
While unions will be fighting to maintain pensions when they go into negotiations with Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, they are willing to introduce three different rates of pension contributions, with those gaining the most paying the most.
The source said: “The dilemma around talks is how do you in effect come out with three different results, because if you are talking about maintaining the benefits of the pension scheme, which is our absolute desire, and if there is a discussion about you have to pay more, how much more do you pay?
“It seems that there has to be three different outcomes, there has to be outcomes for fast accrual people, there has to be outcomes for pre-2013 people, and there has to be outcomes for post-2013 people.”
However, in a pointed remark, the union source said gardaí have made a net gain of around €1,000 above other public servants through a deal agreed late last year and if they have to pay more towards their “gold-plated” pensions that would be tolerated.
“If it turns out that the gardaí have to pay a higher pension contribution than everyone else on the grounds that they had a better pension scheme than everyone else there might be an element of you brought attention to yourselves, you put yourselves on the front pages and sometimes you pay a price for it,” the source said.
Mr Donohoe already warned that talks, due to begin this month, will be difficult. Last night he outlined details of the pay commission report a parliamentary party meeting.