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Teachers attack 'larcenous' and 'unjust' plans for public pension reform

Unions claim a new reform of pensions mean that new teachers will pay more into their pension funds than they’ll get back out.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

TEACHERS’ UNIONS are considering a legal challenge to the government’s new proposals for wholesale reform of public pensions, announced by Public Expenditure minister Brendan Howlin yesterday.

The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) has claimed the new system – which will see public servants earn pensions based on their career average salary, rather than the wage on which they retired – is “larcenous”.

The union claims that new system means workers will pay more into the public pension fund than they will get back in return – and says it will consider challenging the legislation in courts. The government has disputed the figures.

On this morning’s Morning Ireland, Shiela Nunan of the primary teachers’ union INTO said it was also opposed to the new proposals, arguing that they would make “no difference to the current economic circumstances”.

“It most certainly is unfair, and we’ll be joining with our colleagues in the ASTI on this one,” Nunan said, describing the proposals as “unjust”.

Among the other reforms in the new bill, published yesterday, will be the linking of pensions to the rate of inflation – ending the current practice where pensions are increased in line with the salaries of current employees.

The legislation will not have a major immediate financial impact – as it cannot be applied to people who are already in the public service – but will ultimately save the State around €1.8bn by 2050.

The bill does contain several exemptions, however, with politicians, judges, Gardaí and the Defence Forces accruing pensions quicker than others.

Politicians – including the President – will be entitled to accrue pensions faster than other people because their positions require them to give up full-time work and thus fail to accrue other pensions.

Gardaí and Defence Forces personnel also accrue pensions faster than others because of the physical nature of their duties.

All of the above will begin to pay higher contributions on their pensions, however, with their pension contributions now rising to 13 per cent of their salaries.

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Gavan Reilly

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