The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said government can afford to pay the cost of teachers’ pensions. The union criticised what it called plans by government to walk away from any responsibility for pensions.
The claims came at a meeting for primary and post primary teachers held in NUI Galway yesterday (Wednesday ) attended by several hundred teachers.
The meeting was called by the teacher unions to show their opposition to changes in pensions which will if brought in, mean a poorer pension for new teachers or for any teacher who has been out of work for more than six months.
Joe Killeen, INTO executive representative for Galway and Roscommon said the belief that the state has to make a huge contribution to the pensions of its workers is a myth. “At present, with the pension levy, a new teacher joining the current scheme at age 21 needs only a 3.4% (of salary ) contribution from the state as employer to help fund pension costs”. He said this was far less than the private sector average.
At present retired teachers get a pension of half of their final salary after forty years teaching. These pensions are linked to the pay of serving teachers.
The changes proposed by government would mean that pensions would be decided on “career average” earnings rather than final salary and any future increases linked to the consumer price index. The plans also include increasing the public service retirement age to 66 and then to 68.
The INTO said the changes are unfair and unnecessary and together with the second level teacher unions produced an independent consultant report by Trident Consulting which says the current pension scheme for teachers is sustainable.
The report says changes to pensions introduced in 1994 and 2004 along with the pension levy imposed last year have reduced the government contribution to teachers pensions to 3.4 percent.
The Pension Levy for all public servants including teachers (average 7.5% ) was introduced in March 2009 bringing the average pension contribution to 14 percent of income.
“These three proposed changes will be devastating for the pensions of new teachers,” said Noel Ward, deputy general secretary of the INTO. “There will be no net benefit from being in a pension scheme as many teachers will pay in far more than they will ever get out. This situation may be open to legal challenge especially since membership is compulsory.”
He said the state must meet the terms for recognition of pension schemes which it applies to other schemes. “The State should be a good employer, provide adequate pensions for retirement and share the cost of these.”