Why DCU academics should reject the Haddington cuts

It is the opinion of the Section Committee that the Public Services Stability Agreement 2013 – 2016 (Haddington Road Agreement) does not represent any significant change from the original LRC proposals (‘Croke Park 2’) which this Section overwhelmingly rejected.

The budget reduction targets remain the same, the pay cuts for academics remain the same, and increased workloads remain the same. The new provisions concerning increments still involve a permanent cut in potential pay and the concessions concerning temporary staff are aspirational.

We also note that the other post-primary teachers unions, ASTI and TUI, have decided not to re-ballot their members on the proposals on the basis that they do not sufficiently address the concerns of their members.

Further pay cuts     Additional hours     Exam payments     Fixed-term and part-time lecturers     Increments     Pay restoration     ‘Exit mechanisms’     Pension cuts     Threat of legislation     A question of trust     Austerity     Vote No!

The Section Committee outlines below the proposals and what they mean for academics in DCU. The full Haddington Road Proposals can be read here.

Further pay cuts

From 65,000 to €80,000                  5.5%
From €80,000 to €150,000               8%

Additional hours

Academic staff will work an additional 78 hours the details of which will be decided through the work allocation models (p32).

It is unclear how this figure has been arrived at. The work allocation documents in DCU are still under negotiation and revision with the union.

It is worth noting that 78 hours is the equivalent of losing 11 days annual leave or taking an additional pay cut of circa 4% on top of all the other cuts.

Payment for exams

Payment for exams will be reduced to 75% of current rates, from July 2013 (p.33). This source of funding is very often the only one available to academics to attend conferences, buy materials for teaching, and pay academic association membership fees etc.

Fixed-term and part-time lecturers

An expert group, taking account of ‘system and institution needs’, will ‘consider and report’ on the qualification period required for eligibility for Contracts of Indefinite Duration (CIDs). The group will ‘report’ on reducing the qualification period from four to three years and on these to take effect for the 2014/15 academic year. Arrangements will be made for those entering their fourth year in September 2013, with a view to making an early application (p32). The proposal is couched in less than firm language.

Bringing forward the qualification time, even if it happens, is only a small part of the story. As anyone who has attempted to secure a CID in DCU knows, CIDs are not granted as a matter of course. The Section Committee has to fight tooth and nail to get management to agree to a CID – even when the person has exceeded the existing qualification period of four years.

The reality is that Deans weigh up staff headcounts and budgets and it is this that informs their decisions. Indeed, for the upcoming year, the union section committee has been told that part-time hours and many temporary contracts in DCU are going to go. This concession on temporary staff may have already come too late.

Increments

For salaries from €35,000 to €65,000, it is proposed that the next increment will be paid, but that there will be a three month freeze on the next two increments.

For salaries over €65,000, the next increment will be paid at the normal time, but there will be a six-month freeze on the following two increments. In effect, this means the loss of one increment between 2013 and 2016. Staff who are not yet at the top of the scale and who earn over €65,000 will lose both an increment and a deduction of 5.5% of their salary.For those on over €100,000, there will be no increments for three years.

There is no mention of restoration of increments at the end of the agreement.

If a salary increases above €65,000 during the agreement, the pay reduction provisions will apply i.e. 5.5% (but the reduction is not to fall below €65,000). Furthermore, those at the top of scale and earning between €35,000 and €65,000 will lose 6 days’ annual leave over three years, or the equivalent cash deduction (p8, 2.22).

Pay restoration

It is proposed in the agreement that there will be pay restoration, to former levels before the deductions, for those earning above €65,000, by Jan 1 2018 in two phases – April 2017 and January 2018.

However, these dates fall after the next election and a new government may not honour these commitments. Furthermore, there is no restoration of the earnings lost in the intervening period.

Recent agreements do not have a good record in regard to future promises. In Croke Park 1, a commitment was given to those on less than €35,000 that, by Spring 2011, they would receive back a share of the savings achieved but this never happened.

In the same agreement, we were told that Croke Park 1 would run to 2014, yet this date was jettisoned without negotiation in the current proposals and July 2013 arbitrarily instituted as the new implementation date.

‘Exit mechanisms’

The agreement commits to further reductions in staff. Line managers will be given greater leeway through Workforce Action Plans to redeploy staff and restructure the way work is done. Under the heading of ‘exit mechanisms’, the agreement states that managing ‘performance issues’ will be actively pursued (p16, 4.2).

For us in DCU, we have already seen many staff leave. Between December 2008 and December 2012, ‘exit mechanisms’,  led to a 9.63% reduction in staff, or the loss of a staggering 90.8 full-time equivalent people, across academic, administrative, secretarial, technical and support staff.

This is a large gap to fill and it will get larger if the Haddington Road proposals are accepted.

Remaining staff already have at least 10% more work to do, which is not accounted for in the proposed changes to work practices laid out in the document. Furthermore, student numbers have increased and are set to rise further in the national strategy for higher education.

Understaffed units and schools will get worse, as the Employment Control Framework (ECF) staff reduction targets continue until at least 2014. Even more for even less will become the rule.

Pension cuts

You will have noticed on your payslips that, each month, we pay a substantial payment entitled the ‘Pension Related Deduction’. This was imposed, together with the universal social charge in 2010 and, despite its title, does not contribute to your pension in any way. (Staff employed after 1995 also pay a pension contribution towards the State pension). Meanwhile, the actual pension that public servants receive is gradually being reduced. The Haddington Road proposed agreement notes that: ‘the Government intends to align the reductions in public service pensions in payment with the reductions applied to serving staff’ (p 9, 2.27).

Pension cuts for those who retired before February 29th 2012, have been quite considerable: those on a pension of between €12,000 and €24,000 have seen an 8% reduction since 2008, and on those on between €24,000 and €60,000 a total of 12%. Those who have taken early retirement recently may not have realised that this would be the case.

Cuts for those retiring from now on will be less because their pension will have automatically been cut through a reduced final salary. In other words, despite the substantial contributions that we have made to our pensions over our working lives, the actual value of what we will receive is getting less and less.

Threat of legislation

In the foreword to the current Haddington Road proposals, we are told that the negotiators were made aware of the ‘government’s intention to secure the identified level of payroll and pension savings remained, and that if necessary the Government would legislate to achieve those savings’ (p2). In other words, the deal was not negotiated in an open and fair manner, but under the ultimatum that the pay cuts and increase in working hours would be introduced anyway. The Section Committee would argue that this is an unacceptable (and unprecedented) way for trade unions to do business and that the union negotiators should not have accepted the government’s precondition about legislation.

In effect, the legislation allows for powers for the government to override contractual arrangements in place. The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013 proposes a universal freeze on increments (which will not be introduced if the public service unions sign up to the deal). Under the terms of the legislation, increments will be suspended for three years for all public servants unless they are covered by the agreement that modifies the terms deal.

It also clarifies the existing powers of Ministers, the Government or other bodies to reduce the remuneration or increase the working time of public servants.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers is currently seeking legal clarification whether this legislation is not unconstitutional.

In effect, the Government, and, unfortunately, our unions with them, are attempting to bully workers to vote for the Haddington Road Agreement.

A question of trust

We have to remember how we have got to this new agreement. It comes after a two thirds majority of public sector workers rejected the proposed Croke Park 2.

The overwhelming reason why Croke Park 2 was rejected was that, coming on top of pay cuts of up to 25% for some, further cuts, property tax, water charges, and longer hours of work was not acceptable. This situation still applies. This is why the Teachers Union of Ireland and the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland have declared that they will not be re-balloting their members on this deal.

CP2 itself was in breach of the provisions of CP1 which were that it would run to 2014. Our own Executive of SIPTU assured us at the time of CP1 that there would be no further cuts until 2014 (p 5, SIPTU Agreement doc, 2010). We are now told that an extra savings must be delivered in 2013. What is to stop the government and the union leaders coming back for more cuts in two years?

SIPTU’s  General President, Jack O Connor, and its Executive, despite their wrong-headed recommendation for CP2, are once again urging us to vote ‘yes’, saying that the Haddington Road proposals represents concessions and are the best available. They assured us, three months ago, that the now dead CP2 was also the best available. So how can they now be believed?

Austerity

We are being told to do this for the sake of ‘austerity’ – which many, including Ashoka Mody, former IMF mission chief, recognise as being a failure.

More austerity makes no sense. Cutting the public sector does not significantly reduce the budget deficit.  It has been calculated the €1 bn ‘savings’ from cutting public sector employment reduces the budget deficit by only 0.23%. It also has a negative impact on employment.  Saving €1 billion reduces GNP by €1.85 bn and causes a further 20,000 job losses. Cutting the public sector bleeds the economy of employment, consumer spending and growth.

The overwhelming rejection of Croke Park 2 in April signalled that the strategy of targeting the public sector has become deeply unpopular. It opened up the discussion about alternative policies.

* Why could not those who can afford it be taxed more under a fair progressive taxation system? Data in the Sunday Times rich list for 2013 showed that the top richest 250 people increased their wealth by €3.1bn since 2012. They are now worth €49.8 billion.  An emergency 5% levy on this wealth would generate €2.5bn annually for a specified period.

* Why could corporations not be made to pay their tax? As we now know, between 2009 and 2012, Apple paid a tax of just 0.05% on the $22 billion channelled through its Irish subsidiary, Apples Sales International.

* Why should we accept the false division between the public and private sector? If health, education and social welfare budgets are cut, that affects everyone. If public servants’ pay is cut, private sector employees also see their earnings fall back, as those in construction and electrical contractors have discovered with the deregulation of their wage agreements.

Pay cuts in the public sector ends up being part of the race to the bottom.

Vote No to the Haddington Road proposals

The Haddington Road proposals represent a further attempt to take away the rights of public sector workers that trade unionists before us fought for decades to secure. They have been drawn up in conjunction with legislation which gives the government power to brush aside collective bargaining and to determine our pay and conditions. Unfortunately, in the proposals themselves and in the threat of legislation, an attempt is being made to divide grade against grade, sector against sector, and trade union against trade union. The Section Committee is urging members in DCU to vote no as we did before and stand up in defence of the whole public sector and those that work in it.

Marnie Holborow (Sec/ Section Cttee), Mary Phelan, John O’Sullivan, Paul McNamara, Ronnie Munck (Academic Reps). Section.committee@dcu.ie
28th May 2013

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