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Teachers reject ‘race to the bottom’ in pension provision 18/04/17

Teachers reject ‘race to the bottom’ in pension provision

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Press Release

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation

INTO Congress 2017 in Belfast


At the INTO annual Congress in Belfast today, primary teachers rejected a race to the bottom in pensions. They condemned attempts to play off private sector and public sector workers in the area of pensions. The value of public service pensions have been substantially reduced by changes imposed in in the last twenty years. According to the INTO, teachers are now paying more, working longer and getting less.

A pension levy was imposed on all public servants in 2009. This was touted as a temporary measure at the time, in place until the economy started recovering. Currently, Ireland has one of the fastest improving debt ratios in the Eurozone and the indicators of economic recovery are positive. Primary teachers have been paying this levy for eight years. Delegates demanded the phasing out of the pension levy during the next pay agreement and called for its immediate abolishment for teachers on the career average pension scheme.

The career average pension scheme, introduced in 2013, has eroded the value of teacher’s pensions. The 27 year salary scale in operation for teachers means that relatively few years of a teacher’s career are spent at the top of the scale. An actuarial valuation of the scheme in January 2017, described its value as ‘modest’. Speaking to delegates, Pat Crowe, a member of the INTO Executive Committee, referred to the valuation saying that “research shows a clear case for the immediate discontinuation of the pension levy for members of the 2013 scheme and a full return to the previous contribution rate."

Speakers condemned the career average scheme and the fact that teachers are required to contribute so disproportionately to a scheme from which they get such little value. Deputy general secretary, Noel Ward, told delegates the cold hard facts that “public servants pay up to 17% of earnings towards pension…this is daylight robbery for those in the career average scheme” and that “the reality is that the State is making major savings through career average pensions and is paying practically nothing for such pensions as long as the levy is in place”.

Mr. Ward spoke of the need to both protect the teacher pension system, and to establish a second tier universal pension system for private sector workers. “Two approaches are both needed to protect decent public service pension provision – one is to fight for our conditions, recognizing that over 90% of private sector defined benefit schemes are closed. The accompanying approach is to build a new mandatory pension scheme, beyond the State Pension, for all workers: otherwise future pensioners in many cases face reduced living standards and even poverty in their retirement”.

The value of public service pensions has been continually scrutinised by the media since the recession. Mr. Crowe said that we need to break the public perception that our pensions are unaffordable and that “the only way to do this is to propose changes in private sector pension provision that would allow private sector workers to access decent pensions, if they and their employers were prepared to (or mandated to) make the same level of contribution that public servants make."

Tina McLoughlin from Donegal urged support for the motion and outlined how she would be working until aged sixty five. She said as a youngish mother she was thinking to the future and if she took a career break she’d be penalised. She also told how she was married to a non teacher and may have to support him if they lived long enough.