MORE than 5,000 teachers face losing their allowances under a government review.
The payment of a similar allowance to principals acting as secretary to a board of management in an institute of technology is also under scrutiny.
Special allowances paid to teachers who teach through Irish, work in the Gaeltacht or who work on an island, are also being targeted for abolition.
The Gaeltacht grant is worth €3,063 to about 780 primary and post-primary teachers, while about 1,800 receive an annual €1,583 for teaching through Irish.
About 30 teachers are in receipt of the island allowance, which is worth €1,842 per year.
Department of Public expenditure and Reform general secretary Robert Watt has told the Department of Education that these were the priority for elimination. The proposal will now be discussed with the trade unions.
The trade union also said that the practice of putting its full-time paramedics on-call is putting the lives of ambulance drivers at risk.
The HSE has launched an investigation after a paramedic in Cork crashed while on duty yesterday morning.
It has been claimed that he fell asleep behind the wheel, after working a 22-hour shift.
The incident happened in Castletownbere and neither the driver nor the passenger were seriously injured in the crash.
Health sector industrial relations organiser with SIPTU, Ted Kenny, said that reform is needed before someone is killed.
“The HSE national ambulance service have agreed and stated in the court that, yes, it is an unsafe practice, and it has to be abolished,”
“The main reason that it hasn’t been abolished to date is mainly to do with funding, and trying to get funding from the HSE.
“And one has to answer the question – ‘Does some paramedic have to be killed on the road before the HSE wakes up and gives the necessary funding to … make sure that the health and safety of our members are upheld and protected’?”
TRADE UNIONS are set to oppose the latest effort by the Government to eliminate a wide range of public service allowances.
Following last month’s climbdown on reforming allowances, the Government has reopened the issue and is seeking to eliminate more than 80 allowances currently paid to serving staff across the public service.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said yesterday that it wanted management in different parts of the public service to engage with trade unions to eliminate allowances for serving staff in cases where there was no business case for paying them to new personnel.
Alternatively, it said, management should seek to review allowances if this would present greater value for the taxpayer.
Last month the Government said it would no longer pay about 180 allowances to new personnel. It has now said it wants to eliminate 88 of these for existing staff as a priority.
Separately, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will today preside over a crucial meeting with the body overseeing the implementation of the Croke Park agreement to consider proposals aimed at securing further savings under the deal.
Mr Kenny will chair a meeting in his department at which Mr Howlin will present an assessment of potential savings across all 15 Government departments drawn up by Ministers over recent weeks.
There has been speculation in recent days that the Government has signalled to union leaders that it wanted to hold discussions on some form of an extension to the current Croke Park agreement.
Asked last night whether it had indicated to unions that there might be new talks on the agreement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said: “No comment.”
Details of the proposals for escalating savings under the Croke Park agreement drawn up by various Ministers have not been made known.
However, it is understood that the Department of Health and the Department of Education have been looking at the issue of seeking staff to work additional hours. This would fall outside the scope of the existing Croke Park agreement.
Details of the Government’s plans on public service allowances emerged yesterday after a letter on the issue drawn up by the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Robert Watt, was given to health service unions.
The department confirmed that it had sent similar letters to each government department.
Mr Howlin last night said he favoured using a dedicated fast-track arbitration process in relation to the new proposals to eliminate allowances.
Last night Siptu vice-president Patricia King said many of the allowances went back decades and were considered part of core pay. She said while the union would be open to consolidating allowances into pay, as proposed for example in the education sector, it would oppose attacks on low-paid staff.
Paul Bell of Siptu’s health division said the proposals on allowances could place staff on a collision course with the Government.
We cannot underestimate what a defining moment it was for this Government when Brendan Howlin stood up and formally admitted what everyone has known for weeks: that the Government was chickening out on cutting some of the crazy allowances paid to those who work for the bankrupt Government of this bankrupt country.
It wasn’t as if Howlin had promised the earth. His modest goal had been to cut a mere five per cent this year from these allowances — extra pay that various people who work for the Government get for everything from underwear to being on their feet.
But even the minister who is supposed to be responsible for cutting public expenditure — now a matter of grave urgency in this country — could not face down the unions in order to cut one euro in 20 from these allowances. The minister whose department apparently harasses other departments on an almost weekly basis about making cuts and efficiencies, when it came to cutting a mere five per cent from what everyone agrees are at least partially anachronistic and ridiculous allowances, couldn’t do it. He bottled it.
He bottled it even though he had the kind of cover to implement cuts that no other minister in this State will ever have, hopefully. The IMF is here and can be blamed for everything.
We have lost our sovereignty, we are bankrupt and being run by foreigners, and still Howlin couldn’t get even five per cent off these allowances. One suspects that even the unions didn’t expect to get away with that. One suspects that the unions were poised to accept at least some trimming of these allowances. But no, virtually nothing. Because when Brendan Howlin looked into it, he discovered it was more complicated than he thought and that it would in fact contravene Croke Park.
THE TRADE UNION representing Ireland’s primary school teachers has criticised yesterday’s reviews of public service allowances, saying the decision not to reverse allowances suspended in the last Budget is tantamount to a third annual cut in teachers’ pay.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said decisions to cap qualification allowances for new entrants to the teaching system means primary teachers have been hit harder through successive cutbacks than other public servants.
“While qualification allowances are abolished, new teachers will start on the fourth point of the salary scale,” the union’s general secretary Shiela Nunan said.
“In addition, all teachers who carry out supervision duties will continue to be paid the supervision allowance. This means the starting salary for new teachers, including a supervision allowance, will now be €32,294.
Three years ago a similarly newly-employed teacher could expect a wage of €39,195 – meaning a gross pay cut of 17 per cent in the last three years.
The pay could have been lower, however, as supervision allowances – an extra allowance paid to teachers in return for giving up breaks in order to supervise in the schoolyard at lunch break – had been retained, having been identified as previously being up for abolition.
Nunan said the pay now being offered to new teachers did not reflect the academic standard of new teachers in Ireland, who she said had been recognised as among the highest achievers, in academic terms, in the world.
She argued that it was not possible to defend a system where younger teachers were paid significantly less than only slightly more experienced peers who were doing exactly the same work.
The union said it would continue to work towards reducing inequalities among teachers’ salaries.
THE TRADE UNION representing primary school teachers has warned education minister Ruairí Quinn not to try and cut the resources of disadvantaged schools in December’s Budget – saying the minister should learn from previous attempts.
Noel Ward of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) said Quinn should heed the warnings of the last Budget, when he was forced to abandon proposed cuts to the number of teachers at designated disadvantaged ‘DEIS’ schools.