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Letter to Members re Ballot - Building Momentum

(20 Jan 2021)

 

To AHCPS Members

 Building Momentum – A New Public Sector Agreement 2021 – 2022 

The Association and other members of the Public Service Committee of ICTU were invited in November 2020 by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath, to enter discussions with representatives of public service management.

The stated purpose was to seek agreement on a successor to the Public Service Stability Agreement which expired on 31st December 2020.

The talks were facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission and concluded in the early hours of Friday 11th December 2020. The DRAFT Agreement, ‘Building Momentum: A New Public Sector Agreement’ is available on the AHCPS website at https://www.ahcps.ie/New_Public_Service_Agreement_20212022/Default.1070.html

The main elements of the agreement are as follows:

  • It is a two-year agreement running from 1/1/21 to 31/12/22
  • The balance of FEMPI cuts (pay restoration) due to AHCPS grades is to be paid on 1/7/21 (worth between 1% and 2.5% - please see table at Appendix 2)
  • 1% general pay increase from 1/10/21 - except for those that gained from pay restoration on 1/7/21. AHCPS grades will therefore not receive this increase (unless the level of restoration was less than 1% - in such cases they will receive the balance to bring them to 1%)
  • 1% Sectoral Bargaining Fund to be negotiated in advance and to be paid by 1/2/22
  • 1% general pay increase from 1/10/22
  • Pensions will increase in line with general round increases
  • An independent body to be established to review the additional working hours imposed under the Haddington Road Agreement.

The agreement also contains a number of modernisation and reform measures (please see appendix 1).

View of the Executive Committee:

The Executive Committee of the Association considered the proposed Agreement during an extensive meeting on 11th January 2021. The Committee expressed dismay that the grades represented by the Association are yet again treated differently than other public sector grades with respect to the pay measures in the Agreement. However, the Committee also acknowledged that the agreement secures the final restoration payment in July 2021 – a priority issue for the Association prior to the talks. The Agreement also delivers the first actual pay increase for our grades since 2008.

In light of the above, and in consideration of the economic uncertainties facing the country, the Executive has decided, on balance, to recommend to members acceptance of the agreement.

Other Issues:

  1. The Association referred a claim for the restoration of the facility to accrue Flexible Working Hours to Assistant Principal Officers appointed since 2013 to the Civil Service Arbitration Board in July 2019. The Arbitration Board did not recommend restoration on the basis that the facility was removed from new AP appointees under the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement. Notwithstanding the fact the Flexible Working Hours is currently suspended due to the Covid-19 emergency, the Association views this as an outstanding issue to be addressed as part of the sectoral bargaining round.
     
  2. The Association has a long-standing and outstanding pay issue relating to pay scales in the Office of Government Procurement [OGP] that are not equivalent to standard AP & PO scales. It is the intention of the Association to address this issue as part of the sectoral bargaining negotiations.

Next Steps

If the membership votes YES the Association will sign a registered collective agreement with the Workplace Relations Commission under the terms set out in the proposed Agreement. The Association will be subject to the aggregate vote of the Public Service Committee of ICTU meaning that a majority position will apply.

If the membership votes NO the Association will again be bound by the aggregate vote of the PSC. If the aggregate vote is NO it is unclear if further talks will take place or not.

Due to the current Covid-19 emergency and restrictions, the Association will conduct an online ballot of members in respect of this proposed agreement. Members can register to cast their online ballot at the following address:

https://www.mi-nomination.com/ahcps

The latest date for the casting of ballots is 11th February 2021.

Yours sincerely

Ciaran Rohan

General Secretary

19th January 2021

 

Appendix 1                                                    FAQs

What are the pay terms for AHCPS members if the Agreement is ratified?

  • 1st July – FEMPI Restoration. The remaining balance of the FEMPI cuts imposed on AHCPS grades would be restored on 1st July 2021. The amount of the restoration ranges from 1% to 2.5% depending on the grade and point of the scale. This restoration would see AHCPS grades fully restored to 2008 pay levels. Please see table at appendix 2 for full details.
  • 1st October 2021: A general round increase would be paid worth 1% of gross pay. However, those public servants that gained from pay restoration on 1/7/21 would not receive this payment. AHCPS grades would therefore not receive this increase
  • 1st February 2022: The equivalent of a 1% increase in annualised basic salaries through a ‘sectoral bargaining fund’ (see below).
  • 1st October 2022: A second general round increase worth 1% of gross pay would be paid.

If the proposed agreement is accepted, unions will not be able to lodge ‘cost-increasing’ claims for improvements in pay or conditions during the lifetime of the agreement.

Do the pay improvements apply to allowances?

The increases will apply to pensionable allowances.

What is the ‘sectoral bargaining fund’?

If ratified, the agreement would see the establishment of a ‘sectoral bargaining fund,’ initially worth 1% of basic pensionable pay during the lifetime of the agreement. It’s not possible to increase the allocation by proposing productivity measures. Neither can the process “give rise to unintended cost increasing outcomes.” This fund can be used to deal with outstanding adjudications, recommendations, awards and claims that are relevant to specific grades, groups or categories of workers within the various sectors of the public service.

Alternatively, groups could opt to use the available allocation, or part of it, as a sectoral pay round.

The bargaining units (ie, the different grades, groups and categories) are to be agreed between unions and employer representatives by the end of February 2021. Unions and management will then decide how the fund will apply in each bargaining unit no later than the end of March 2021. Management and unions would then agree proposals, which must be submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPR) for verification by the end of June 2021. Payment would fall due on 1st February 2022.

No sectoral or grade-based claims will be allowed outside this process during the lifetime of the agreement.

What are the Haddington Road issues referred to in the Agreement?

This section of the proposed agreement relates to certain measures introduced under the 2013 Haddington Road agreement (HRA), which still remain in place. The measures to be addressed under this agreement are additional working hours introduced under the HRA, and overtime and premium payments.

AHCPS have an outstanding issue in relation to the restoration of the ability of new APs to accrue Flexible Working Hours which was removed under the Haddington Road Agreement.

 How will the ‘Haddington Road hours’ be addressed?

An independent body will be established by the end of March 2021. It will take submissions from management and unions representing the grades concerned and will make recommendations by the end of 2021.

Roll-out of these recommendations will begin within the lifetime of the agreement, with €150 million available to commence implementation of the outcomes (which must be “applied equitably across all affected grades, groups, categories and sectors”) during 2022.

Unions and management representatives will then engage proactively on what’s necessary for the implementation of any remaining recommendations in the context of the 2023 budget estimates (which will be announced in 2022). In effect, any successor to Building Momentum will deal with the implementation of remaining measures.

The proposed agreement cites a range of issues that the independent body must take account of, including the cost and service impact of addressing the HRA hours. These are set out in section four of the proposed agreement.

 What modernisation and reform measures are in the package?

Chapter one of the proposed agreement acknowledges the recent “unprecedented display of commitment, flexibility, hard work and agility in public service provision” and commits the parties to harness this momentum to meet the immediate challenges of 2021 and 2022. It says these include the continuing response to Covid-19, a return to normal delivery of health services, ensuring that schools remain open and addressing challenges that arose for children during the crisis, managing the response to Brexit, establishing the public service as the driver of best practice on remote working, and addressing digitisation.

It sets out measures to harness the potential for technology to improve service delivery, including engagement with new technologies, and streamlined, automated and redesigned processes and procedures, including remote working “where appropriate.” It identifies the need for staff upskilling and retraining as jobs, roles and processes change.

It also sets out measures to improve access to services through reformed work practices, including enabling temporary reassignments where necessary and increasing the movement of staff across the public service where necessary.

And it sets out an implementation and reporting mechanism to ensure delivery of agreed reforms, including through sectoral action plans.

What happens if the economic and fiscal situation changes?

Like the current Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), the proposed new agreement contains a provision to review the terms of the agreement “where the underlying assumptions of the agreement need to be revisited.” However, the union negotiators successfully insisted that PSSA language, which linked this specifically to a worsening economic situation, was deleted. This creates the opportunity to seek a review of the package if the economic situation improves beyond expectations.

 What are the implications for public service pensioners?

If the proposed agreement is ratified, existing policy on the application of pay increases to civil and public service pensions will continue for the duration of the agreement. In the main, this means that pension payments will be adjusted in line with pay adjustments for serving staff.

However, this will be done in a way that takes account of the fact that, in a small number of cases, pension payments currently exceed parity with pay. This is because pensions were not reduced by the same extent as pay during the last fiscal crisis.

Pensions are adjusted in line with inflation (the Consumer Price Index, or CPI) in the case of the single public service pension scheme, which applies to all civil and public servants who entered public service employment on or after 1st January 2013. This means that the pensions of members of this scheme are not affected by pay movements, including those in the proposed agreement.

What happens if the proposed agreement is rejected?

If the proposals are rejected, there will be no public service agreement in place after 31st December 2020. That means that existing protections, which restrict management’s ability to impose workplace and other changes without discussion or agreement, would cease to be in place, as would the strong protections against outsourcing that currently exist. Needless to say, the proposed pay improvements and progress on the Haddington Road hours and other issues would be off the table. The Government might be willing to re-enter talks, but the AHCPS Executive Committee does not believe it would be possible to agree a better outcome at this time.

APPENDIX 2 – Table Showing Impact of Proposed Pay Measures on AHCPS Grades

Please see attached Excel Spreadsheet

 

 

 

 

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Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants