RTAI President, Mr. Matt Reville, addressed the 151st Congress of the INTO in the Galmont Hotel, Galway on Monday April 22nd. The text of the address follows below:
Address by Mr Matt Reville, President RTAI,
INTO Annual Congress 2019
It gives me great pleasure as President of the Retired Teachers’ Association of Ireland to address the 151st Annual Congress of the INTO.
This forum raises many memories for me. And while this is my first time to address Congress in my capacity as RTAI President, this is a familiar forum for me. I was a delegate to over 30 INTO Congresses initially as a delegate from Dublin South branch and subsequently for many years as a member and later Runaí of the Accounts Committee.
I continued my activism following my retirement by becoming involved in the RTAI at local and national level and I became President at our Annual Convention on 5 March last. We were delighted to have your President Joe Killeen address our recent Convention and we also were delighted to have Noel Ward with us.
However, we had a very special guest at our Convention this year namely, your outgoing General Secretary Ms Sheila Nunan. We were delighted to make a presentation to Sheila to reflect our gratitude to her for the work and support for the INTOs retired members during her term in office. Sheila received a warm standing ovation from delegates which reflects the high regard she is held by the RTAI but also reflects the strong bond between both our organisations.
It is appropriate for me to say a few words about teachers’ pensions as the protection of income in retirement was the reason our Association was founded. The positive news is that we are continuing to recover our losses.
Firstly, the pension levy – a tax on pensions introduced in 2011 – is being gradually phased out. From January last most retired teachers are no longer liable for this tax, as it only applies to the portion of pension over €39k – and there are few retired teachers in that pension bracket. The levy will be completely phased out for us from January next. And while this is good and welcome news, all that is happening is that the money taken from our pensions since 2011 is being restored gradually.
Secondly, the two PSSA pay increases in 2018 for serving teachers were passed on to some of retired teachers. Why only some you might ask? Teachers who retired since 2012 have smaller pensions than those who retired prior to that date, as they were calculated after the cut to teachers’ pay. It is this cohort that are benefitting from the PSSA increases. Those who retired prior to March 2012 will not see any increase until the teachers’ pay scale is fully restored to pre-pay cut levels and that will take a little longer.
The RTAI is delighted that the teachers’ salary scale is being restored and that the cohort of retired teachers whose pensions are linked to this scale are also getting these increases. We welcome the retention of the link between pay and pensions. However, ‘parity’ as it is known is only guaranteed until the end of PSSA in 2020 and we would urge the CEC to ensure that any follow-on public-sector agreement will retain the link between pay and pensions.
We are making progress. But it is essential to emphasise, that to date, we are still in the restoration phase. The last actual increase to public service pensions was in September 2008 – almost 11 years ago. It is time we moved beyond restoring losses and secured real increases for public service employees – serving and retired!
We depend on the INTO to look out for our interests in salary and pension negotiations for several reasons. But the main reason is that as retired workers we are excluded from the negotiating table. The Alliance of Retired Public Service to which we belong is treated courteously by senior civil servants and briefed on relevant matters. However, this is no more than a courtesy and when it comes to negotiating public sector wage agreements there is no representation from our group, notwithstanding that the outcome of these discussions impacts directly on our members.
There is a growing momentum in the Alliance that retired workers should be able to engage directly with the Government as their employer in a more meaningful way. Until that day arrives, we will continue to depend on the INTO to do the heavy lifting for us!
Our Association reached a significant milestone in its development last month when for the first time, our membership reached the 10,000 mark. We take great pride in this achievement as it reflects a strong and vibrant Association and one, we believe that is going from strength to strength.
It also reflects a greater emphasise by our branch officers on the recruitment of new members. Our objective is that every teacher who is retiring would be aware of our Association and be invited to join. Our recruitment slogan is We are better Together!
Tomorrow we will have a stand in the trade centre and if you would like to know more about our Association and our activities, we would be delighted to meet you. This is the second year of this initiative and we are grateful to the INTO for facilitating this development.
At the time of my retirement from teaching our District Representative on the CEC was a young Donegal man called John Boyle. John had recently replaced Sheila Nunan as our District representative as she moved to Head office. We have every confidence that John will continue the INTOs strong tradition of support for retired members, which is so important to us.
I would like to extend best wishes to John as he takes on his new responsibilities and he will have the full support and encouragement of all his RTAI colleagues.