Articles in Category: Press Releases

Retired civil servants’ exclusion from pay commission is ageist

on Saturday, 21 May 2016. Posted in News, All News Items, Press Releases

The exclusion of retired civil servants from the Government’s Public Sector Pay Commission has

been branded “ageist” by the Retired Civil and Public Servants’ Association.

RCPSA President Mary Farrell has called on the Government to “treat retired public servants with

respect” by extending the terms of reference of the commission to formally include representatives

of public service retirees.

Speaking ahead of the RCPSA’s AGM in Dublin next Thursday, Ms Farrell warned that retired public

servants will no longer accept “having to wait outside the door” when it comes to decisions which

affect their futures.

She said: “We as pensioners were excluded from both the Lansdowne Road and Haddington Road

negotiations - now we’re being omitted from the Public Sector Pay Commission.

“This reflects the deeply ageist slant of Irish society. The attitude of society is such that people -

when they reach a particular point in their lives - become persons about whom decisions are made

and who are not involved in the decision making process in relation to their own lives and on issues

that matter to them .

“The Public Sector Pay Commission should not become another forum where we as pensioners are

expected to wait outside the door like supplicants while our futures are determined within by the

representatives of working colleagues and of Government.”

Ms Farrell added: “On behalf of our membership of almost 10,000 retirees, I am calling on the

Government to treat retired public servants with respect by extending the terms of reference to

make room for our representatives on a formal basis. This will ensure that there is an independent

and transparent system in place for future pension determination.

“The RCPSA, which is now in its 71 st year, is urging all retired civil and public servants to join its ranks

and add strength to our number. Our members, past and present, have helped forge the Ireland we

live in today, we are now working together to ensure we get the fair and equitable treatment we

deserve from the State we served.

The RCPSA AGM will take place in the Aisling Hotel, Parkgate Street, Dublin 8 on Thursday, May 26 at

2pm. Members as well as retired and soon to be retired civil and public servants are welcome to

attend. Light refreshments will be provided from 12.45pm.

Press Release - July 2012

on Wednesday, 07 May 2014. Posted in All News Items, Press Releases

oncerns were expressed by members about the huge impact of austerity measures on pensioners.

The Council of the Retired Civil and Public Servants’ Association (RCPSA) is issuing the attached Press Release with an EMBARGO until Monday 9th July, 2012.
 
The RCPSA represents 11,000 members, retired from the Civil Service, An Post and Eircom.
 
The Press Release is issued following the recent AGM of the Association at which serious concerns were expressed by members about the huge impact of austerity measures on pensioners and the extent to which the position of civil service pensioners (the average pension paid to civil servants is €19,000 per annum) is misrepresented in public.    The AGM was also concerned at a simplistic approach which frequently denigrates the public service and sees further cuts as a panacea to economic ills.
 
The RCPSA believes that public service pensioners are prepared to pay their fair share towards recovery but they are entitled to expect that everybody on the same income as them will be treated in the same way.
 
Queries about the attached Press Release will be dealt with by Sean O Riordain (Tel. 051 397755 Mobile 087 2521072 and e-mail mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , a Council member acting as Association spokesperson on this occasion.  Sean O Riordain is a former senior official of the Department of the Taoiseach and former General Secretary of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants.

Press Release - March 2013

on Wednesday, 07 May 2014. Posted in All News Items, Press Releases

Statement on Proposed Pension Cuts Associated with the Croke Park II Draft Agreement

Public service pensioners fully understand and appreciate the impact of economic crisis on the community (of which they and their families are part) and the difficulties facing any government in addressing them. Many of the austerity measures, especially those touching on medical matters (changes in medical card entitlement and increasing medical costs) have particularly impacted on pensioners who, by definition, are already on reduced income. Recent revelations that patients in the Republic who do not have medical cards are being charged 18 times more for the same generic medicines than they would in the North exacerbates an already difficult situation.

Public service pensioners, perhaps better than most, understand and accept the vital need for society to maintain effective public services and they are fully prepared to pay their fair share, i.e. on the basis that those on the same income should contribute equally. Many have already had their pensions already reduced under emergency powers.

Public service pensioners are increasingly characterized, politically and in the media, as privileged fat cats ripe for plucking. This ignores the reality that the average public service pension is not high (€19,000 in the civil service); that public service pensioners are excluded from receiving the state pension; that, not alone has there been no increase in pensions for the last six years, but public service pensions have already been reduced through the use of emergency measures by government and that public service pensioners are discriminated against in the application of the universal social charge.

This discrimination in the application of universal social charge arises due to the exemption applying to other state pensions. At lower levels, this means that a public service pensioner who receives a pension of €12,442 from the state after forty years’ service pays the universal service charge on every cent earned, whereas a person receiving a non contributory state pension of €12,442 pays no universal social charge. Equally, a private sector pensioner receiving a non contributory pension of €19,966 (for themselves and an adult dependant) pays no universal social charge whereas a public service pensioner on the same income of €19,996 pays a universal social charge of €716 before tax.

The current decision (associated with the Draft Croke Park II Agreement) to further reduce public service pensions has been accompanied by a large element of political spin. The impression initially created was that the pension cuts would focus on top political and top public service pensions, and Ministerial announcements since have focused on serving public servants and largely ignored the proposed pension cuts.

Not alone are top level public service pensions proposed to be cut, but pensions down to the level of €32,500 are to be targeted again. No government spokesperson has been rushing to present this level of income as 'highly paid' or to explain that, if the normal pension rules are followed, surviving spouses’ pensions down to €16,125 per annum will also be cut.

The majority of the pensioners involved joined the public service in the 50s and early 60s and worked through difficult years in the development of the modern Irish state. They are now in their seventies, in declining years and health, often supporting spouses (who worked in the home and are not entitled to either contributory nor non contributory state pensions) and, as best they can, adult children on what, in any terms, are modest enough incomes. At an income level of €32,500 they will already have suffered one pension cut and be liable for a universal social charge of €1,593 before paying income tax, property charges or water charges, whereas a private sector pensioner at the same income level (receiving an occupational pension of €9,796.80 and a state pension of €22,703 for self and spouse) will pay no universal social charge.

An absolutely vital element of their service was that they had a guaranteed pension, not based on a pension fund the value of which might fluctuate, but on a contract with a sovereign state. Their salary was reviewed over the years by independent pay determination machinery headed up by a high court judge or senior counsel. Their pension contributions were at the level determined appropriate by successive governments. They have fully discharged their debt to the government and the community and are now private citizens like other taxpayers.

Governments have paid every single debt on contracts concluded since the foundation of the state, with the exception of that owed to public service pensioners whose property rights have been restricted by emergency legal measures. There are an estimated 870,000 people in Ireland who receive incomes over €32,500 but only public service pensioners are targeted in these cuts.

Government spokespersons are frequently heard explaining why they cannot, for constitutional reasons, touch other individuals or sectors of the economy. The high level of pensions in the state supported banking sector come to mind, not to mention the fact that a recent ESRI shows that, in 2009, Irish public companies made average pension contributions of €100,000 per annum (25% of salary) to top executive directors. These pension contributions were 36 times the average for other employees and the tax reliefs on pensions were €2.7bn. The fact that the Sunday Independent can reveal that Irelands’ (North and South) 300 wealthiest people now have a combined fortune valued at more than the entire state of Ecuador and grew by 6.3% or €3.9 bn last year is, of course, entirely irrelevant to concepts of social justice.

The reality is that, when the public service tag is taken off and public service pensioners are seen just as retired workers, the overwhelming majority are at the heart of the middle classes in Ireland. Like many others they are caught in the middle between one political philosophy which is not seen to be especially sensitive to middle or senior management and another which is consistently anti public service, pro big business and, as time goes by, becoming more and more like the republican party in the United States. Watch My Lips - No Increase in Taxation may be a populist catch cry at election time but it can lead to serious inequities and unsustainable economic policies.

Press Release - November 2012

Written by Sean O'Riordain on Wednesday, 07 May 2014. Posted in All News Items, Press Releases

Pre Budget Submission

RCPSA Approach to Budget

The Association is very concerned at the orchestrated representation of pensioners as a privileged class which has largely escaped the effects of the economic crises and which is now ripe for plucking in the upcoming budget.   This ignores the extent to which pensioners generally (by definition on substantially reduced incomes) have had their expectations of a secure old age overturned as a result of the  socialising of bank debt (the cheapest guarantee ever), the collapse in investments and domestic property values (their "nest egg" for emergencies), the  reduction in medical card entitlements, the increases in medical costs, the introduction of the social  charge and the increases in fuel and transport costs, not to mention such issues as the reduction in the carers' allowance which impacts especially on pensioners, many of whom are in declining years, are vulnerable and in ill health.   

Public service pensioners in particular are the subject of virulent attacks leading up to the budget.  The pension entitlements of politicians and top public servants are presented in a manner which suggests that public service pensioners generally are specially privileged and well off.  This ignores the fact that the average civil service pension is E 19,000 (only a fraction of 1% of public service pensioners receive pensions of over  E 100,000): that their pensions have been reduced by emergency legislation; that they do not receive the state old age pension and that the universal social charge is deducted from the total civil service pension whereas the state old age pension element of private  pension income is exempt from the charge.


The Pre Budget Submission

The Association's Pre Budget Submission is concerned with protecting the interests of pensioners generally and the majority of our proposals would, if adopted, have a beneficial outcome for both public and private sector pensioners.

The Association is, however, greatly concerned that aspects of current fiscal policy which selectively and unfairly penalise public service pensioners (who as a class have already suffered pension reductions on foot of emergency legislation) are rectified in the budget and are not used as a basis for future penalty.   This is especially the case in respect of the removal of the discriminatory application of the universal social charge to public servants and ensuring that the basis on which property and water charges are founded are fair and equitable and do not lead to further discrimination.   The restoration of public sector pensions to the pre statutory deduction level is an aspiration which is repeatedly articulated at annual general meetings of the Association.

The principal elements of the pre budget submission, in summary, are:

Apply the USC to public service pensioners on an equivalent basis to its application to private sector pensioners in receipt of the state pension

Exempt persons over 80 years of age from the USC,

Restore the level of public service pensions as soon as possible

Ensure that the new property tax:
        - applies a waiver for elderly, low income owners of high value properties,
        - takes account of earnings in setting the level of liability for property tax,
        - applies a banded system where tax is paid on a self assessment basis,
    
Exempt persons under the income tax threshold from the household charge and property tax,

Provide an easy option for incremental payment of property tax and water charges at Post Offices,

Include water charges in the household benefits package,

Discontinue the application of the 0.6% Pension Fund Levy,

Protect the Free Travel and other measures which support the independence and welfare of the elderly.  

Press Release 29th May 2014

Written by Sean O'Riordain on Thursday, 01 May 2014. Posted in All News Items, Press Releases

I have been asked by Council to address the AGM in relation to the recent establishment of the Alliance of Retired Public Servants.

The Alliance came together informally last year. This arose out of a situation in which pensioners had no representation whatsoever at any of the Croke Park or Haddington Road talks and in which Emergency Legislation had repeatedly been brought forward without any involvement of public service pensioners in the process.

Public service pensioners had no voice in decisions which crucially affected them and were alienated from government.

The Alliance is comprised of pension organisations representing about 75,000 retired public servants - including former civil servants, local authority and health employees, teachers, nurses, doctors, gardai, army officers and others. Its establishment on a formal basis in January has been welcomed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and his department, and a process of structured engagement with them has now commenced. We recently met the officials, in the first instance, and we are awaiting a meeting with the Minister.

While the Alliance very much shares the concern of all pension organisations at the extent to which increased taxes, costs and charges, especially in relation to health matters, has affected pensioners, its prime focus is on the additional impact on public service pensioners.

There are four issues at the heart of our concern:

  1. The need to develop an Exit Programme from the use of Emergency Powers to reduce public service pensions;
  2. The removal of the discrimination against public service pensioners in relation to the application of the Universal Social Charge;
  3. The need to change the practice under which eligibility for medical cards as applied by the HSE fails to take into account pension deductions made under emergency powers; and
  4. The need for access to Third Party Mediation/Arbitration


The Exit Programme

When we met the Minister for Public Expenditure this time last year he welcomed the proposed establishment of the Alliance on a formal basis and he indicated his intention "as a priority" to move towards reducing the burden of public service pension reductions, with the initial focus on people in receipt of low pensions, as soon as economic circumstances permit, and he envisaged ongoing bilateral discussions with the Alliance in this regard.

Governments have gone to the public service well on three separate occasions, in 2010, 2011 and in 2013, to reduce public service pensions.

The combined effect of is that emergency powers are now being used to reduce all public service pensions above €12,000 per annum by between 8% and 28%. This is penal. For many pensioners, their actual pension rate is close to what it was nearly ten years ago.

While the common populist belief (which governments are aware of and at times encourage) is that public service pensioners as a class are fat cats. The reality in, for example the civil service, is that less than 0.1% have pensions over €100,000 and the average is in the order of €20.000.

What many people also do not realise is that public service pensioners, unlike their private sector counterparts with coordinated pensions, do not receive the DSP state pension and, if their spouses did not work outside the home, the spouse has no entitlement to a state pension.

In many cases, public service pensioners, lifelong members of the coping class, are already struggling to survive on one reduced pension and meet ever increasing costs of healthcare, property tax, water charges, etc. Their household budgets have been squeezed to the very core.

Listening to some Ministers before and after the bye elections one could determine a political will, in improved economic circumstances, to move in the budget toward tax reductions, reduced Universal Social Charge, etc.

But it would surely be obscene to have a situation in which emergency powers are being used to take money from low paid pensioners to fund tax reliefs for the rich.

An Exit Programme should now be drawn up which will lead to ending the use by government of these emergency powers. The alternative, as economic circumstances improve, is that one section of the community (public sector workers both serving and retired) will be expected to disproportionately fund recovery. This is an untenable proposition and and does not serve the common good.


The Universal Social Charge

Public service pensioners are, in practice, subjected to a major discrimination in comparison with their private sector counterparts on a coordinated pension.

This discrimination occurs because, unlike the public service pension where all income counts for the purposes of the USC, the state old age pension element of the coordinated private service pension is entirely excluded in the calculation of the USC.

Let me give a simple and stark example.

Take two pensioners, both with defendant spouses, one from the private sector (with a coordinated pension) and the other one from the public service - both with pensions of €32,500 per annum.

The public service pensioner will pay a universal social charge of €1,593.80. The private sector pensioner will pay no Universal Social Charge.

This is the equivalent of the public service pensioner being required to pay a second property tax and water charge. If it happened to private sector pensioners, there would be a revolution!

And, this does not take into account the fact that, at a pension level over €24,000 every public service pensioner is already subject, on foot of emergency powers, to a reduction of 12% before tax - on top of a deduction of 8% already made for earnings over €12,000.


Medical Card Eligibility

There is a problem also with medical card eligibilty. What apparently is happening is that, although cuts from public service pensions are being made under emergency powers, the HSE is including the cuts as income received in determining whether you can receive a medical card. This is a simple anomaly which should also be rectified urgently.

Third Party Access

While we have, as I mentioned, commenced a process of structured engagement we are at present at a major disadvantage in that pensioners, unlike workers, have no access to any third party mediation or arbitration. Any concepts of treating pensioners fairly requires this to be rectified.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Colleagues, I want to emphasis a number of points.

The central issue is not one of retired public servants wanting to avoid paying their share. They understand, better than most, the essential role effective public services play in society and are fully prepared to pay their share and have more than done so.

What they want, however, is to be treated fairly and to pay their taxes and charges on the same basis as the general public and not be subjected to the continuing use by government of emergency powers and discrimination.

A prolongation of the use of emergency powers against serving and retired public servants is increasingly untenable as economic circumstances improve. The potential for a two strand recovery with all boats rising, except the public service boat, which remains holed below the water line, has to be be avoided. Restoration of the social fabric of the state is the responsibility of the entire community.

Progress, however, is not just a matter to be handed over to the Alliance. We have close contacts with the trade union movement and with the Public Services Comittee of Congress and we support their efforts on behalf of serving staff.

Ultimately, progress will be hugely dependent on support from constituent pension organisations like the RCPSA and, above all, on the determination of individual public service pensioners to become involved and to do whatever is necessary to help secure a fair and balanced outcome.

Speech by Sean O Riordain of the Alliance Council and the Retired Civil and Public Servants' Association

Written by Sean O'Riordain on Tuesday, 27 January 2015. Posted in All News Items, Alliance of Retired Public Servants, Press Releases

The Alliance of Retired Public Servants Meeting in Enniscorthy, 26th January, 2015


We also hope that the meeting will be useful in answering questions about how individual pensioners might help in the Alliance campaign for the ending of emergency powers used to reduce public service pensions and the ending of discrimination against public service pensioners in the application of the Universal Social Charge.

Background
The Alliance is comprised of pension organisations representing about 75,000 retired public servants - including former civil servants, local authority and health employees, teachers, nurses, doctors, gardai, defence force personnel and others.
The Alliance came together informally in 2013 against the background of public service pensioners having no voice in relation to the introduction by government of emergency legislation reducing pensions and, following a meeting at the time with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Alliance was established on a formal basis in 2014.

Pension Deductions

The effect of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest legislation
(Acts of 2011 and 2013) is that emergency powers are used to reduce all public service pensions over €12,000 per annum by between 8% and 28%.

Many public servants are on pension levels equivalent to those which applied at the turn of the century and, at the rate things are going, many will be dead before the pensions they worked all their lives for are restored.

In improved economic circumstance, the level of pension reduction becomes penal given the general austerity measures which they also bear - the ongoing medical cost inflation, lower income thresholds for medical card eligibility, cuts to medical insurance tax relief, increased exposure with age to medical expenditure, major other cuts to disposable income including waste disposal charges, local property tax, water charges, electricity, fuel and telephone benefits under the household benefits package.

The Universal Social Charge

The position in relation to the Universal Social Charge is that public service pensioners pay this charge on all their pension income if their pension exceeds €12,012, whereas pensioners on coordinated pensions (state plus occupational pension - the private sector norm) pay no Universal Social Charge on the state element of their pensions.

This, for example, means that a private sector pensioner in receipt of a state pension for dependent spouse and self, both over 66, on a coordinated pension income of €34,684 pays no Universal Social Charge whereas an equivalent public service pensioner on the same pension is subject to the Universal Social Charge of €1,572. This is discriminatory and unfair.

Perceptions v Reality

Public service pensioners are private citizens who spent their working lives in the service of the state; their contract, which is completed on their side, is with a sovereign government (which doesn't default!) and pension arrangements were a critical element of their employment; they contributed to their pensions at rates deemed appropriate by successive governments.

Contrary to popular belief, public service pensioners are not privileged "fat cats" - the average civil service pension is in the order of €20,000 per annum and considerably less than 1% of civil servants receive pensions over €100,000 per annum; overwhelmingly, public service pensioners do not receive the state pension and their spouses (usually wives) who worked in the home have no entitlement to the state pension deriving from their retired spouse's (usually their husbands) public service employment.

Alienation

The present reality, not surprisingly, is that very many public service pensioners have become alienated from government.

Given popular misconceptions, they are perceived as an easy target and they are now afraid that, in improved economic circumstances, the emergency powers will continue to be used into the future leading, in effect, to a situation in which public servants (retired and serving) will, de facto, be funding more populist financial relief measures leading up to and beyond the general election.

Emergency Powers

The amount of money deducted under emergency powers from public service pensioners in 2014 is estimated officially to be €125 million. The €125 million sounds and is a lot to an individual but in terms of the running of the state it is by no means essential. It is only 0.2% (zero point two percent) of the total state expenditure of €54 billion in 2014.

The government decided that it was not necessary to take a further €2 billion in taxes/cuts in the 2015 budget. The exchequer returns at the end of August 2014 showed that tax receipts exceeded estimates by €1 billion and, in the full year, the government took an extra €3.5 billion in taxes compared to 2013, which was an increase of 9.2%. The official expectation is that the deficit for 2015 will be 2.7%, i.e. below the 3% deficit target.

In the circumstances, and the longer it goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to convincingly argue that the contribution from retired public servants is so essential to economic recovery that the continued use of emergency powers against pensioners is either necessary or justified in the common good.

Emergency powers have been used to restrict the property rights of public service pensioners in a situation where, by contrast, over €1 billion was put into the pension funds of the state owned Allied Irish Banks on the basis of recognising the legal obligations to bank pensioners. Are the property rights of public service pensioners, who have spent their working lives in the service of the state, not deserving of equal recognition?


The Alliance Programme

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, in May 2013, indicated to the Alliance his intention as a matter of priority to move towards reducing the burden of the public service pension reduction, with the initial focus on people on low pensions, as soon as economic circumstances permit. At a meeting with the Alliance in July, 2014, the Minister said that talks would be held with the public service unions in 2015 about the orderly winding down of the emergency legislation in relation to public service pay and with the Alliance in relation to public service pension reductions.

We urgently need specifics as to what the government has in mind and we have looked for another meeting with the Minister for Public Enterprise and Reform.

The Alliance has also recently written to the leaders of political parties in government and opposition and to all T.D.s and senators advising them of the concerns of retired public servants and seeking their assistance and that of their parties in ending, at the earliest opportunity, the use of emergency powers to reduce public service pensions and ending the discriminatory application of the Universal Social Charge to public service pensioners.

Conclusion

The Alliance will continue to pursue these approaches at political level and will advice public service pension organisations, for the information of their members, of the responses received.

The Alliance is also arranging regional meetings and we will shortly be issuing a newsletter to keep you up to date. In the meantime, you may wish to joining other pensioners in contacting your local T.D.s, senators and prospective general election candidates so that they can be made aware of your concerns and you can hear what they say at first hand.

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