Address by Mr. Luke McGinley, President RTAI,
INTO Annual Congress 2017
Good afternoon delegates,
Last month, the RTAI held its Annual Convention and we were delighted to be addressed by your President Ms. Rosena Jordan who brought us the good wishes of INTO members.
Today, as RTAI President I am delighted to have the opportunity to address your 149th Annual Congress and in turn bring you greetings from your retired colleagues and former members of the INTO.
The RTAI now has almost 10,000 members throughout the Republic of Ireland. It is well organised at national level and has significant resources which are used to develop services to members. It has an efficient network of 32 branches. RTAI meetings are very well attended as there is a strong social element to our Association. We are proud of our Association and we believe here is no other group of retired workers in this country that has a full-time professional organisation comparable to ours.
But as an Association we are not entirely self-sufficient and today I would like to ask for your help.
I am delighted to note that the 3rd motion for debate at this Congress is a comprehensive motion on Pensions and it is in relation to our pensions that we need your support.
It is essential that workers defend and protect their future pension entitlements and in particular oppose any worsening of pension terms for more recently qualified teachers. It will be many years in the future before the negative impact of recent changes will become evident and I hope that the INTO and other public service unions will have success over that time in the battle to defend pension terms.
But the battle to maintain pensions is not solely about the future. There is another important aspect to protecting pensions and that is protecting the pensions of those who are already retired.
And pensions have not been protected in recent years!
Firstly, you will be aware that public service pensions were cut on 1 January 2011. A second round of cuts was implemented on 1 July 2013. These were two significant reductions in income for the State’s own former employees. And quite frankly, we never anticipated that once we reached retirement that pensions in payment would be cut. As well as reducing our income the cuts also shattered our confidence in the reliability of our pensions. Income certainty for retired people is critical to our sense of financial security and wellbeing and this is particularly true for those of our members on modest pensions.
I am happy to say that we are in the second of a 3 stage restoration of the cuts, with a third phase to commence on 1 January 2018. And while this restoration process is welcome it falls short of a full reversal of the cuts.
There is a second issue: I am delighted to see that each point of the teachers’ scale increased by €1,000 from the first of this month. This is a first step in restoring salaries that were cut in January 2010. But all teachers who retired in the past 5 years or so have lower pensions as a result of the cut to salaries. There is a compelling case that the €1,000 increase to the teachers’ scale should be applied pro rata to the pensions of those teachers who retired on the lower pay scale. But at this time there is no indication that this is going to happen. And if it is not paid, the longstanding and valued link between salary and pension is undermined.
As an Association we are active with other retired colleagues in advocating our case on both issues: one, the full restoration of pensions and two maintaining pension parity.
But as retired workers we do not have the clout or muscle of a trade union and we have no formal negotiating rights. In the coming months unions will quite rightly be pursuing the reversal of the emergency legislation that cut salaries. It was similar emergency legislation that cut our pensions.
My request to you, to your executive and especially to Sheila and Noel is that you ensure that the issues of your former colleagues are addressed in these talks.
We need the INTO to do some heavy lifting on our behalf!
Finally, I would like to invite all of you who are approaching retirement to join the RTAI. Notwithstanding the concerns I have just outlined you will be joining a vibrant and optimistic group of retired teachers, enjoying the opportunities that retirement brings, while supporting each other in the best traditions of the INTO.
I would like to thank you for your invitation to address Congress and wish you well in your deliberations.