Friday, 16 November 2012 11:27

Summer 2011 RSTA Newsletter

Dark Cloud of Pension Cuts - Perhaps a Silver Lining Later

At the request of the RSTA as well as others the ASTI, with the TUI and INTO sought legal advice as to whether the recent cut in our pensions by the Government is illegal. We are very grateful to the ASTI for reciprocating our ongoing

support for its members by showing its support for the RSTA and ASTI Emeritus Members who are members of the RSTA on this vital issue. In our request, we focused on the grounds of “breach of contract,” due to the unilateral imposition of the pension cut, and on “ownership” of our “deferred salary” due to the Government’s withholding of same from RSTA members.

Unfortunately, the advice received indicates that any case taken against the Government on these grounds is likely to fail. This is because of the enactment of Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2009, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009 and the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2010. The advice suggests that these acts allow the Government to override certain rights previously enshrined in other legislation and generally regarded as sacrosanct

Our pension arrangements are based on our contract of employment and superannuation and the Government has

given itself the right to unilaterally override these. Since “legitimate expectations,” while real, are weaker in law than contracts, it has given itself the right to unilaterally override these too. It is interesting that in spite of this the Government does not feel it has the right to override the contracts of bankers who claim bonuses that their employers, the same banks the Government supposedly now controls, cannot afford. Perhaps a case will eventually be taken to in relation to these contracts but is the Government likely to take such a case for a few million Euro since losing it could require it to repay our pension cuts too?

The legal advice indicates that under the Constitution we do have an “ownership” right over our “deferred salary” but that the Government can override this to protect the Common Good provided the implementation of this action is “proportionate.” The argument that it has already cut pay levels of workers would support this justification. Does this mean it can cut our pension again? Perhaps not - see elsewhere in this newsletter!

Concerns Regarding Pensions of Our Serving Colleagues

The Government decided to reduce the “tax-free” status of pension contributions of currently serving public service workers, including teachers as well as workers in the private sector. Up to now pension contributions were “income tax-free,” and for teachers, usually at the higher rate. The payout of pension is taxed but for teachers this was usually at the lower rate due to the modest size of our pensions. The recent budget changes reduce the value of the pension scheme to serving public service workers, including serving teachers and this is regrettable. These changes will be even worse for public service workers than private sector workers because public service workers also pay the extra tax called the “pension levy” and while this too was free of additional income tax this will no longer be the case. The impact of the reduction of the “tax-free” status for both pension contributions and the “pension levy,” combined with the recent cut in pensions that already affects retired teachers means that the pensions of serving teachers are now much worse value for money than in our day as serving teachers.

The Government intends that all new entrants to the public service from this year will receive even less at payout - indeed less than they contribute when working (as highlighted in the Trident Report commissioned by the three teacher unions) - which may well be illegal. Their pensions are to be based on their “career average” earnings rather than on final salary and their contributions are not to be allowed to “improve” in value as they would, for example, if they were used to buy An Post Savings Certificates. Instead they will be held at face value for years using the Consumer Price Index despite the fact that the Government has the use of these teachers’ money and the teachers are deprived of it for up to 40 years. This

seems extraordinarily unjust. Other pension providers will be able to provide better terms than this and this raises another legal issue - whether the Government has a right, under European competition and monopoly law, to compel teachers to participate in a pension scheme when other schemes offer better value for money.

While these draconian cuts would affect all public service workers they would affect teachers worse than any other group!  Since teachers have such a long salary scale and spend many more years than others in the lower levels of this scale, their career average earnings are lower than those of others who finish on similar levels of pay. In this respect, in implementing the envisaged pensions changes the Government is discriminating against teachers when compared with other public service workers. This is unacceptable!

Employee Assistance Service extended to Retired Teachers

Our last RSTA President, Marie Doyle has been in ongoing correspondence with the Department of Education and Skills in recent months in relation to the possibility of extending the Employee Assistance Service that is available to teachers so it would also be available for a period to newly retired teachers.  A recent reply from the Occupational Health section of the D.E.S. states:  "I am pleased to inform you that following discussions with the Employee Assistance Service provider it has been agreed to extend access to the service, with immediate effect, to retired teachers for up to 6 months post retirement."  This service will be available to teachers who retire at the end of this school year and in following years.

The following, taken from the home page of the Civil Service Employee Assistance Service website indicates the kind of service that is available to employees and now to retirees, if applicable, for six months.

Key Features of the CSEAS        

The Civil Service Employee Assistance Service (CSEAS) provides an internal Employee Assistance Programme to serving and retired Civil Servants.

The service is a work-based professional service, which is designed to assist employees manage/resolve work-related and personal difficulties which, if left unattended may adversely affect attendance, work performance and quality of life.

In recognition of the valued service given by employees to the Civil Service, the CSEAS is also available to retired staff.

Key features of the CSEAS are

 * Problem Assessment and Counselling/Referral service for staff

 * Advisory service for managers/supervisors

 * Information Resource

 * Raising Health Awareness

CSEAS staff work to a code of practice and are members of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association of Ireland (EAPA Irl).

Professional standards apply in relation to confidentiality.

Further details of this service are available at

An Opinion - Should We Have To Pay For European Mistakes?

Neither retired teachers nor ordinary Irish workers caused the economic collapse.  The ECB itself, by insisting on a low interest rate to keep inflation low and thereby support the German economy in particular, bears a lot of responsibility for the financial crisis.  When cash rich, mainly European financial institutions recklessly poured money into unregulated Irish banks for "a quick buck" where was the ECB?  When these banks recklessly poured this money into a small number of unregulated Irish building/development companies where was the ECB?  When these companies recklessly poured this money into the hands of landowners all over Ireland, more than their land was ever worth, where was the ECB?  When these companies recklessly continued to build houses with borrowed money though many remained unsold, where was the ECB?  The damage was now done and the people of Ireland had done nothing!  Financial anarchy prevailed as interest rates remained low.  And where was the ECB?  Then, with the help an ill-fated Government decision made under cover of darkness that continues, for now at least, to save the blushes of the ECB, the fields of unsold houses seeded with squandered European money became the "killing fields" of the future of Ireland.  If this money should ever be repaid (which is debatable) it is not just the responsibility of people of Ireland but also of Europe and the ECB.

Honest assessors of the situation claim that Ireland simply cannot pay the colossal burden of bank debt as well as its sovereign debt - approximately €250bn. in total - so what can be done?  There are actually at least two other options.  One would be to tax all of the wealthy Irish elite who made a "killing" during the ten years of madness and impose a temporary higher rate of tax on other Irish high earners who benefited from the "Celtic Tiger."  The Government refuses to do this!  A second option would be to spread the burden of the Greek, Portuguese and Irish bailout debts among the 100 million workers in Europe, at an average cost of just €1.00 per worker per day, for ten years.  This, while unfair in principle, would be relatively painless and less unfair and more equitable than a fifty times larger, impossible burden of bank debt foisted on just over two million innocent Irish workers and pensioners including retired teachers.  Acceptance of this would also show real worker solidarity across Europe while possibly saving the Euro.  The E.U. refuses to do this!

If Irish taxpayers cannot pay the bank debt, European banks, even if they initially have to write off some debt, will get their money back over the following years through increased bank charges, higher interest rates, higher levels of business or some other device.  This, after all, is what banks do.  If this happens people across Europe will end up paying anyway. So why just subject generations of Irish workers including teachers, and pensioners including retired teachers, to this millstone of debt.  There are other, fairer ways!  




1.    Be careful, be respectful, the Internet is forever:

(a)    Always protect your Name, Identity and Reputation.  Remember (i) that the Internet is a public forum and (ii) that what you post online can never be fully deleted and will never go away.  Be careful not to post online any material about yourself or others that you, or they, may regret in the future.

(b)    Always be respectful to others when "posting material online."  You would not like others to be disrespectful in what they post online about you.

(c)     The Internet is a useful invention but people can use it to abuse others.  This can be very upsetting, especially if it (incorrectly) seems that nothing can be done to stop it.

(d)    Abuse over the Internet can be stopped.  On the Internet you are not anonymous.  Your Internet service provider can identify your computer and therefore can trace the source of online abuse to another computer when requested by the Gardaí.

2.   If you are a victim of abuse do not respond but keep the evidence:

(a)  Never reply to online abuse or harassment.  If you respond the other person knows you are upset and is likely to keep doing it for that reason.  There are other ways to deal with abuse that put you in control rather than the abuser.

(b)  Put yourself in control.  Store or print out any abusive material that comes to you, even though it is upsetting.  Keep it as evidence.  Then . . .

3.   Avoid becoming a victim of abuse on a social networking site, e.g. Facebook:

When you first sign up to Facebook protect yourself as follows:

(a)  Skip the options offered when you sign up, ("Add Friends," "Find Friends," Profile Information" and "Profile Picture,").  Set your privacy settings first!

(b)  Click on "Account" and then on "Privacy Settings" and then on "Customise Settings."

(c)  Set all the "Things I Share" to "Friends Only" and untick the box for "Include Me in 'People Here Now' after I check in."

(d)  Set the "Things Others Share" to "Friends Only" and disable "Friends Can Check Me Into Places."

(e)  For each item of "Contact Information" select "Customise and then select "Only Me."

(f)   Go back to "Privacy," go into "Applications and Websites," go to "Edit your settings" and set your "Game and Application Activity" to "Friends Only," then untick all the boxes for "Information accessible through your friends" and the "Instant Personalisation" and "Public Search" sections.

(g)  Go back to "Privacy," go into "Block Lists," click on "Edit your Lists" and you can block any person from contacting you or seeing your information.

(h)  Now you are in a position to add any friends and information you wish but do this carefully.  Your current friends may not always be your friends.  Do not share personal information or photographs except with your most trusted friends.

If you are having a problem with unwelcome or abusive comments or other material deal with it as follows:

(a)    Click on the "Report/Block User" link below any information posted on the site e.g. a picture.

(b)    You will be switched to a forum where you can block the user, specify the type of abuse and make a detailed report that will be used to bring the abuse to an end.

Other Social Networking sites also have privacy and safety settings.  These should be carefully set to limit what you can share and with whom.

4.   Email:

Do not respond to unwelcome or abusive emails.  However, do not delete them.  Instead, if they do not stop, transfer them to a separate folder so you do not have to look at them and print them out to show the Gardaí.  Then, if the emails continue to come, say, for two weeks, the Gardaí can ask the service provider to trace the sender and then, with the details of what was sent and when, they can deal with the sender.

5.   Webcam:

If your computer has a web-cam video camera attached or built in, keep it covered at all times unless you are using it to communicate with someone, e.g. using Skype.

If you do not do this, there are people who can get access to your computer without your knowledge and watch you and take pictures of you and what you are doing.  They can then change these pictures to make them embarrassing for you and make them public.  To cover the webcam just fold a piece of paper and arrange it so it can be folded down in front of the camera when you are not using it and folded up out of the way when you are.


Two Outings for North Eastern Branch

On September 1st we went north of the border.  We set out by coach at for the Bronté Interpretive Centre, Rathfriland, Co. Down. It was here that Patrick Bronté, father of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, was born. The Church and School where Patrick taught and preached have been preserved and now include displays about the Bronté Family.  We had lunch in the Golf Links House Restaurant in Newcastle at about We then visited Downpatrick Cathedral, the Grave of St. Patrick and Downpatrick Jail. We returned via the coast road with a stop for tea/coffee and finger food at the Carrickdale Hotel and arrived back at Dundalk at about after a very pleasant experience.

On May 23rd we gathered for lunch at 12.00 noon at the Cavan Crystal Hotel, Dublin Road, Cavan.  We then went by coach to Enniskillen and had a guided tour of Enniskillen Castle.  Due to stormy conditions a planned boat trip to Devenish Island and its Ancient Abbey on Lough Erne had to be cancelled so we hope to do that on another excursion in September.  We returned to the hotel in Cavan for tea/coffee and finger food before heading home at about 7.30pm.  This was a very enjoyable and informative event.

Mayo Branch Goes North

Members of the Mayo Branch went north recently to visit Belfast and the Giant's Causeway as well as seeing the sights along the way.  The photograph on the back page shows the group in Stormont Castle in the company of Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly and Mayo born Minister of Education, Caitríona Ruane.  The group received a very warm welcome in Northern Ireland, which comes as no surprise to other RSTA members who have been there on day trips or other outings over the years.  Since their visit the Mayo Branch has reciprocated by hosting a visit by the NASUWT (Retired) in Mayo.

Trip to Belfast on 16th June

Nuala O'Connor, Eileen Brennan and Aveen Kilduff (National Committee), assisted by the NASUWT Retired (Northern Ireland), organised the following trip to Belfast for 16th June:

·         Train from Connolly at

·         Met by members of the NASUWT Retired at Belfast Central.

·         Visit to newly-refurbished Ulster Museum, about which we have had very good reports.

·         Lunch and guided tour.

·         Optional visit to nearby Botanic Gardens and Queens University.

Those interested in going please telephone: Aveen Kilduff at 087-6641466, Eileen Brennan at 0868111245 or Nuala O’Connor at 086-8768950.


Some members may be interested in the following:

Sheila and Michael Clifford Pilgrimage Accompanied by Spiritual Director

Padua, Assisi, San Giovanni & Pietrelcina Including: Venice & Rome 21st July – 29th July 2011

Coach from Killarney to Dublin Airport with pickup points to be advised.  Vice-versa on return.  Coach transport between pilgrimage sites.  Hotel accommodation each night. Cost: €940 per person (Single supplement: €270)

For details contact Michael Clifford  064-6633712 or 045-861410

Northern Irish Retired Teachers Visit

On Thursday, 7th April a joint outing took place for members of the RSTA and the NASUWT Retired (our Northern Irish counterparts).  The trip included a visit to the Glencree Visitor Centre and Powerscourt House.  Members of both groups found this trip very interesting and educational as well as renewing again the friendships built up in recent years through many joint adventures both north and south of the border.  Let's hope we can have many more such events in future years.

"Calamity Jane"

A number of members went north to see the musical "Calamity Jane" in the recently refurbished Belfast Opera House on Friday 18th March at 7.30 pm. Tickets cost £20. The group met for dinner at before the show.  All who went agreed that it was a brilliant show and a great outing.  Members who wanted tickets for the musical phoned Nuala O’Connor at 01-2980819 or mobile 086-8768950 and Nuala arranged it.

Trip to Fuengirola

Elsewhere in this newsletter you will find details of a holiday in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol in Spain you might like to consider.  If you intend to go on this holiday bring plenty of sun protection.

"Free Travel" in Northern Ireland

For future reference, members should note that those who are eligible for the "free travel" in the Republic can fill in a form at the Railway station that enables them to avail of free travel in Northern Ireland too. Please note that this facility is not available at the time of booking if you book online but you can claim a refund for online payment costs if you ask within a certain timeframe.  Please contact Iarnród Éireann for details.

Questions In Relation To Disguised Pension Cut

The method of applying the recent public service pension cut has proved very confusing and worrying for our members and on that basis alone is worthy of closer examination.

Section 4.7 of the Four Year Recovery Plan states: "The Government has therefore decided on a reduction . . . in the annual cost of public service pensions . . ."  Chapter 6 of the Budget 2011 speech states: " . . . Legislation to provide for this reduction will be brought before the Oireachtas . . ." (our emphases).

But since the cut was imposed pension slips show the gross pension unchanged and instead an apparent deduction of the amount in question.  Why?  This strange presentation of the pension cut led to close scrutiny of what had really taken place.  Already, three serious legal questions have arisen in relation to it:

·  Did the reduction involve breach of contract by the Government because the gross pension is now less than was agreed between the pensioner and the Government at the time of retirement?

·  Was it legal for the Government unilaterally change the terms of a pension arrangement previously agreed between it and the pensioner?

·  Do pensioners have ownership rights over pension contributions since they are "deferred salary," contributed over a lifetime and held in trust by the Government until retirement?

Second hand legal advice from another union that suggested that the Government could reduce retired teachers' pensions at will, on the basis that in the past it agreed from time to time to improve pension arrangements, was ultimately discredited.  Both parties had agreed to these past improvements and two parties can agree to replace an old contract with a better one.  However, that did not give one party the right to unilaterally impose a worse arrangement against the wishes of the other.  Whatever was asked when the second-hand advice was being sought, it clearly did not include the key questions raised above.

For better or worse, these questions have now been answered thanks to legal advice sought by the ASTI and others (see elsewhere in this newsletter) but the manner of recording the cut in pension on the pension slips of members still raises questions.

Did the Minister of the day feel legally unsafe imposing the pension cut and legally vulnerable presenting it as a reduction? (In other words, did he doubt whether his emergency legislation was sufficient to override normal legislation in relation to contracts of employment and superannuation?)  Is this why the pension slips show an apparent deduction rather than a reduction?  An inquiry to the Revenue Commissioners verified that the retired teacher is now taxed, not on the gross pension shown at the top of the pension slip but on that minus the apparent deduction - on what is shown at the bottom of the pension slip as the "taxable gross."  Since a person is always taxed on gross pension, this "taxable gross" (the original gross minus the apparent deduction) is now the real, effective, reduced gross. The pension has in fact suffered a reduction.  Why, then would the Minister of the day feel he had to disguise this?  It seems it was a deliberate ploy rather than some kind of computer limitation because not only do our pension slips show the reduction in this way but so do pension slips issued from at least some VECs?  It seems the cut was policy but did the Minister doubt its legality?

Could such a doubt explain why, when the Government cut the pay of all public service workers including serving teachers by 6% (as well as imposing the infamous "pension levy") over a year ago it did not cut our pensions accordingly?  Naturally, we were worried at the time about a deliberate breach of pension parity but what if it was not this so much as a concern on the part of the then Minister that until the most recent emergency legislation was enacted he could have been acting illegally?  Is it now possible that after 28th February 2012, when serving teachers' pensions are once again to be based on half the maximum salary (which has been cut by 6%) of serving teachers our pensions will be cut by an additional 2% to match?

The biggest worry for our members arising from the Government move to unilaterally cut pensions is not the amount taken (though this is very serious for retired teachers, especially those on reduced pensions because they were unable to continue teaching for forty years due to child-rearing, illness or other factors).  The biggest worry is that if this cut is deemed legal the Government could cut our pensions again!  And again!  Naturally, members are very concerned that the Government might decide to do this.  (But see elsewhere in this newsletter for reasons why this may be less likely to happen after all).


If we had a comprehensive list of email addresses and mobile phone numbers of our members we would be able to contact members at short notice.  This could be very useful at a time when our pensions are being cut and our teaching colleagues are being forced to pay more and more for a smaller and smaller pension.  To give one example, together we could respond more quickly to negative "spin" and criticism of serving and retired public service workers, including teachers, in national newspapers.

Did you join the RSTA before November 2010?  If so, and if you have an email address will you please send an email message to Seán Fallon, RSTA Secretary at with your Name, Branch, Phone Number and Mobile Phone Number for our database.  Please put the word "Database" at the top of the email in the "Subject" line as this will make it easier to identify and manage.  Thank you.

Pension Cuts Revisited - The Medical Card

Already, the outgoing Government cut our pensions when it chose to call our well signalled pension Reduction "Public Service Pen" and located it on our pension slips on the right hand side with other Deductions.  This was a very interesting move by the Government.  Since the cut is not shown on the Gross pension shown on the left side of the pension slip, (which may be illegal were it not for recent emergency legislation - see elsewhere in this newsletter) we are given the impression that we are still taxed on that Gross.  However, the cut has been taken from the Gross shown and we are only taxed on the "taxable gross" shown at the bottom of the pension slip.  So our pension is actually "reduced."

Because of the real "Reduction" in pension there may be some members who have become entitled to a medical card but may not realise it because of the unorthodox presentation of the cut, showing it as a "Deduction" while the Gross shown remains unchanged.  This may be worth checking.  If in doubt, contact the very helpful staff in your local Revenue office.

Possible Silver Lining to Ominous Dark Cloud of Pension Cuts

In the absence of a pension fund for our public service pension contributions, these are held in trust for us by the Government of the day until we retire. For as long as the Government holds this money it can invest it in Ireland, using it to pay social welfare payments or children’s allowances, fund infrastructure improvements, pay current public service pensions and the like. The Government has the use of this money (for up to 40 years) until the time when a public service worker retires, at which time the pension payout falls due and must be paid. This is what is known as a “pay as you go” pension system. The Government currently profits from an excess of public service pension contributions over pension payout by about €500m per year. It made a profit of about €5bn in today’s terms from secondary teachers’ pension contributions in the last thirty years

Recent legal advice suggests that under the Constitution retired teachers and other public service workers do have “ownership” rights in relation to our pension contributions, our “deferred salary.” That the Government saw fit to cut our pensions, to unilaterally withhold some of our “deferred salary” for other purposes and give retired teachers and other public service workers less than the agreed amount in their pensions, is therefore an extraordinary move. According to the legal advice this would, in normal circumstances, be a breach of our “ownership” rights as enshrined in the Constitution. However, in view of the difficult economic circumstances in which Ireland finds itself and the difficult financial situation in which the Government finds itself the legal advice suggests that the Government could be justified in trying to protect the Common Good by the use of this extreme measure. In other words, in the Courts the “Common Good” (of all the people of Ireland) would get higher priority than “ownership” rights of a particular segment of the people of Ireland, namely retired teachers and other public service workers.

This pension cut has generated a lot of anger and worry among members. However, the possibility of the Government repeating the process if it thinks it needs to do so is a cause of great anxiety and fear among members. What is our pension worth if the Government can reduce it at will? Will we be able to cope financially next year? For members on reduced pensions due to a shorter teaching career (e.g. because of child-rearing or the old ban on married women teaching, while it lasted) this worry is likely to be even greater.

There may yet be a silver lining to this particularly ominous cloud. To explain, let us compare our Government’s situation with the following: A man knows that his neighbour has savings hidden on his property so he sneaks in and takes €1000. He admits doing this but says he needed the money and has since spent it so it is gone. In court the judge tells him that because his neighbour was the rightful owner of the money he owes it to him and must pay it back!  Because he has not got the money the judge agrees that he can make an arrangement to repay it, for example, over a period of time or at a later agreed time, with interest. The fact that he does not have it does not mean he does not owe it. The debt still stands!

Compare this with the situation in which the Government now finds itself? It owes us our “deferred salary” but has decided that it cannot pay us the full amount. This does not mean that it does not owe it to us. Legal advice suggests that it may be justified in not paying us if it is deemed necessary to withhold payment in order to protect the Common Good, but it does not say that it is justified in not paying us, ever! Surely our “ownership” right under the Constitution does not disappear just because the Government says it cannot or will not pay us now? Is it not our “deferred salary” still? If necessary, instead of paying now, the Government can seek to make a different arrangement with us, e.g. to defer payments or pay the current shortfall later. It seems logical and fair that if we have ownership of the money and the Government withholds it, it must pay it back when it no longer needs it to protect the Common Good! If this is true, has the Government not simply (unilaterally) taken a loan from us, which it must repay in due course? If this is true, perhaps the Government will be less likely to cut our pensions further in the future, adding to its debt to us.

The issue of ownership of our “deferred salary” only arose because the Government broke pension parity by cutting the salaries of serving teachers and other public service workers while leaving the pensions of their retired counterparts  untouched in 2009. It will be interesting to see whether, after 28th February 2012, it decides to cut our pensions by another 2%, to match our pensions with the pensions of those who retire after that date and with the cut final salaries of serving colleagues. A cut of 2% would be very painful for our members but there are many in the RSTA who, in the long run, would prefer the security as well as the solidarity of having pension parity restored rather than going it alone, even at that price.


Address by President, Marie Doyle

At our AGM on May 4th Marie Doyle, in her President’s Address, made the following points:

• The RSTA has been busy fulfilling its objectives - (a) encouraging the arrangement of social events by Branches for their members (please send reports of these to the Secretary for our website and newsletters) and (b) trying to deal with the ongoing threat to our pensions.

• There is a lot of misinformation out there about retired public service workers and our pensions and it is hard to counter this when newspapers are biased.  It is as if our issues are less important to them and they want our point of view airbrushed out of people’s consciousness.

• There is an anomaly whereby emergency legislation can enable the Government to cut our pensions but not the bonuses of employees of its own banks. Many members want this challenged.

• The disguising of the pension reduction so it looks like a deduction may have an impact on members’ entitlement to medical card or other benefits and members need to check this with Revenue.

• One education correspondent alleged that ASTI General Secretary, Mr. Pat King intended to “shake up” older (Emeritus) ASTI members. There was also a rumour circulating at the ASTI Convention that Emeritus members might have to pay a fee for membership. Let’s hope neither of these is true.

• The debate about retired teachers taking substitute work in schools was discussed at the ASTI Convention again. If a retired member needs the work s/he should not be prevented from doing it and to do so would be illegal on the grounds of ageism. However, the RSTA discourages retired teachers who do not need the work from doing it since young teachers need the work badly.

Marie then thanked the members of the National Committee and the Branch Secretaries and other Branch Officers for their work during the year. She also thanked the ASTI for its ongoing support for the RSTA.

Invited Guests, Christy Conville & Colm O’Cléirigh

Mr. Christy Conville (T.U.I. Retired Members’ Association) told the meeting that teachers were very hurt by the various cuts and by treatment by the Government and in the media. He said we need to work together to defend our pensions. He indicated that the TUI Retired Members Association is working to set up a Branch structure like that of the RSTA and to producing its own newsletters as the RSTA does.

Mr. Colm O’Cléirigh (I.F.U.T. Retired) complimented outgoing President Marie Doyle with whom he was proud to work on the ICTU Retired Workers’ Committee. He said I.F.U.T. had not signed up to the Croke Park proposal because hundreds of his Federation’s well qualified members are kept on non-permanent, part time contracts with low pay and no pension provision. In times past staff and students in Universities pursued ideals such as truth, knowledge and understanding.  Now we have CEOs in charge and students are treated like clients. This is a trend that will do nobody any good in the long run. We need each other’s support to defend ourselves and our serving colleagues.

Invited Guest, ASTI General Secretary Pat King

Mr. King welcomed us to Tomás McDonagh House, which we “bought” through subscriptions over the years. He

acknowledged that in the past, we as ASTI members had fought the good fight for better pay and conditions. As we now

face very difficult times the RSTA and the ASTI share many common interests. For example, the ASTI got legal advice

regarding the pension cuts after the RSTA requested it. Unfortunately that advice suggests that through its emergency

legislation the Government can almost “do what it chooses” now. In the face of this, organising and working together offers

the best way forward. He suggested that a more formal relationship between the RSTA and the ASTI might be worthwhile.

At the end of the meeting Mr. King pointed out that a newspaper suggestion about his alleged “intentions” in relation to

older ASTI members was a complete misquote and that, had it been true he would have been guilty of breach of equality

legislation. He said that the Convention motion on ASTI Emeritus members had been badly put and that there was no

plan to introduce a subscription for Emeritus members. While it does seem inappropriate to some that retired teachers

have a vote on serving teachers conditions of work it seems very appropriate that retired members serve on some ASTI

committees, These issues merit further discussion, to which he is amenable.

Treasurer’s Report

The RSTA has 1147 members in 16 branches around Ireland. This is likely to increase significantly between now and the

end of February 2012 and this would be welcome. RSTA members pay an annual subscription of €24.00, with two thirds

of this returned to branches to be used to help fund branch activities.

Treasurer, Muriel McNicholas (Mayo Branch) has been working to improve efficiency and transparency in our financial

operations. Our new application forms (available to download at are easier to process and we now

use standardised forms for branch accounts.

The RSTA is proactively working to formalise arrangements for payment of travelling expenses so that while there will be

rigorous accountability there will be no financial cost for representatives working on behalf of the RSTA. New proposals

will be applied to the National Committee on a trial basis this year.

RSTA AGM : Secretary's Report on the Year's Work


Since last year's AGM the National Committee met formally four times, June 1st, September 22nd, January 25th and March 9th.  Issues we addressed at these meetings included:

·         Supporting the ASTI in defending our pensions and the pensions of its current members.  Since the RSTA has no negotiating licence we are happy to give the ASTI all the support and encouragement we can in relation to pensions.

·         Increasing RSTA membership.

·         Improving communication with members by:

(i)            upgrading our website - ongoing,

(ii)           gathering email addresses and mobile phone numbers of members - ongoing,

(iii)          improving the RSTA Newsletter, ongoing.

·         Devising an appropriate RSTA Logo - ongoing.


During the year we corresponded with the following:

·         With the ASTI General Secretary and Standing Committee in relation to seeking legal advice on aspects of the recent pension cuts namely the issue of possible breach of contract between the Government and retired public service workers and the issue of ownership of "deferred salary."  The ASTI got this legal advice (see elsewhere in this newsletter).

·         With the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament in relation to affiliation fees.  The ISCP has offered a more acceptable range of affiliation fee arrangements.

·         With the RTAI and TUI Retired on co-operation in defending members against pension cuts.

·         With the retired FÁS workers in SIPTU on co-operation among retired workers.

·         With the Minister for Finance regarding the anomaly whereby recipients of the State Old Age Pension are exempt from the Universal Social Charge but some retired public service workers on similar low levels of pension are not.  The low pension may be due to years out of teaching due to child rearing or being forced to leave work when getting married.  Some of our members are in this category.

·         With newspapers, on the issue of public service pension cuts and related matters - only some were published.

·         With RSTA Branches asking for details of activities organised for members - thanks to Branch Secretaries for sending us their accounts of enjoyable and imaginative events which can inspire other branches to do likewise.

·         With the Department of Education and Skills in relation to the Employee Assistance Service (see elsewhere in this newsletter).  The outcome is that this service is now extended to the first six months of retirement.

National Committee Members' Wider Involvement on Behalf of Members

·         We have one National Committee member (Catherine McHugh) who is also on the committee of the National Federation of Pensioners Associations, which meets regularly.

·         We had one member (Seán Fallon) attend and contribute to the debate at the Seminar organised by the three teacher unions in relation to pension cuts in University of Limerick and at least one member attended the Galway Seminar (Carmel Heneghan).

·         We had three members (Marie Doyle, Louis O'Flaherty and Seán Fallon) attend the Older and Bolder seminar where it launched its response to the Government's National Pensions Framework and contribute to the discussion there.

·         Two members (Marie Doyle and Louis O'Flaherty) attended the Pensions Symposium organised by the three teacher unions earlier this year in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin.

·         Two members (Marie Doyle and Seán Fallon) attended a meeting of the three teacher unions' retired members' associations, hosted by the RTAI, to discuss resistance to the pension cuts.

·         Three of our members (Denis O'Boyle, Mayo, Michael Moriarty, and Seán Fallon) are members of the ASTI Pensions Sub-Committee, which met five times in the last year and played an important role in organising the Trident Report to strengthen our defence of our pensions.  They also attended the briefing about the Trident Report by the consultants who prepared it for the three teacher unions in Portlaoise.

·         One member (Seán Fallon) visited Waterford, Limerick and Galway Branches to outline for branch members the situation regarding the pension cuts and the threats to pensions that have now, unfortunately been implemented.

·         Two members (Marie Doyle and Louis O'Flaherty) are members of General Purposes Committee or the main body of the Retired Workers' Committee of the I.C.T.U. and attended its meetings during the year.  This led to our President, Marie Doyle addressing protesters at the huge November ICTU Dublin protest march.  This she did with distinction and she appeared on national television as a result.                                            Contd.>

·         We had three members (Catherine McHugh, Marie Doyle and Seán Fallon) attend the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament AGM.

·         One of our members (Seán Fallon) corrected serious errors in relation to public service pensions, broadcast on Newstalk radio in March.  The points that public service workers always paid for their pensions and that their pension contributions currently exceed the pension payout by €0.5bn per year needed to be made due to incorrect/incomplete information the previous day.

·         Four members who are also ASTI members (Marie Doyle, Louis O'Flaherty, Dan Healy and Seán Fallon) distributed copies of our last Newsletter outside the ASTI Annual Convention in Cork.  This was the Newsletter in which the issues of the attack on our pensions and the position of Emeritus members in the ASTI were dealt with and both of these issues were on the Convention agenda.  Our position on these issues received a lot of support at the Convention but the motion in relation to Emeritus Members was withdrawn on the day.  Delegates intending to retire are now aware of the existence of the RSTA.

·         Two of our members (Marie Doyle and Louis O'Flaherty) were invited to address the ASTI Convention.


·         We contributed material to five issues of ASTIR.

·         We published three issues of our Newsletter.  Here we addressed the issue of pension cuts as well as highlighting the more social activities of RSTA Branches.  Our thanks are due to the Branches who sent us in details of their activities.  If your branch organised any event since Christmas please let us know.

Social Events

·         Our members (Marie Doyle and Seán Fallon) attended just a few Christmas/Winter lunches due to cancellations caused by the inclement weather conditions.

·         We had two representatives (Eileen Brennan and Seán Fallon) attend the NASUWT (Retired) 15th anniversary dinner in Belfast and we had groups of members visit Northern Ireland for events on the invitation of the NASUWT (Retired).  We also had members attend a show in the Opera House in Belfast and another trip to Belfast is in the pipeline for June (see elsewhere in this newsletter).

·         Nuala O'Connor assisted by other members of the National Committee organised a number of events to which members of the NASUWT (Retired) were invited e.g. the visit to Kilkenny hosted by the Kilkenny Branch and the recent tour of Glencree and Powerscourt. The same retired teachers' group recently visited the west of Ireland, hosted by the Mayo Branch.

RSTA AGM - Elections To National Committee

The elections to the National Committee took place and the new committee is:

President:                     Henry Collins, from the recently formed Waterford Branch.

Vice President:              Seán Geraghty.

Secretary:                     Seán Fallon.

Treasurer:                      Muriel McNicholas.

Ex-Officio:                    Marie Doyle, Immediate Past President.

Committee Members:    Eileen Brennan.

Carmel Heneghan.

Catherine McHugh.

Aveen Kilduff.

Nuala O’Connor.

Sarah Scott.

Sincere thanks to the outgoing committee and particularly Marie Doyle, outgoing President, who worked so hard and represented us so well at every level and in every forum. Hers will be a hard act indeed to follow. Congratulations to Henry Collins, our new President. Good luck to the new committee in all it undertakes on behalf of members. Let us hope the coming year will be adventurous and enjoyable as well as otherwise fruitful.

RSTA AGM - Motions

The following motions were adopted at the AGM.

1. “That the RSTA does all in its power to reverse the apparently illegal pension cut.” (Donegal Branch). When this motion was being proposed the proposer acknowledged that in view of all the work already being done the motion was almost superfluous.

2. “That our deep dismay be conveyed in the strongest terms to the President of ASTI at the Standing Committee proposal to restrict further the privileges of Emeritus Membership in ASTI.” (Waterford Branch). In proposing this motion the high level of ongoing practical co-operation between the RSTA and the ASTI was acknowledged.

3. “That the National Committee be asked to consider revising the Rules of RSTA to reflect the growing number of branches in the Association and facilitate the integration of the branches in the structures of the national organisation.” (Waterford Branch). Since there was a recent review of the Rules of the RSTA (2009) this was not considered an urgent issue but benefit could come from it.

One Law for One Group and Another Law for Another

Joe Higgins, T.D. (United Left Alliance) complained in Dáil Éireann that the contracts of "porters, cleaners and teachers" in the public service could be overridden by the Government's emergency legislation but that apparently bonus contracts of banks it controls could not.  His comment calls into question legal advice that the emergency legislation authorises the Government to override contract legislation.  It is interesting that the Government does not appear to want to challenge this in court for a few million Euro.  If it lost such a case it may not only have to authorise the payment of the bank bonuses but also the repayment of public service pension cuts which would cost a lot more.  This "one law for one group and another law for another" does not foster solidarity but further facilitates a divide and conquer approach by Governments.

Solidarity with Private Sector Workers on Pension-Savings Cut

The new cut in private pension savings, implemented while this newsletter is going to print, will receive a sympathetic response from many serving and retired public service workers.  Having taken a serious pension cut ourselves we know how upset the targeted workers and their families must feel.  Many of these savers, possibly including some of our own members trying to supplement our modest or even reduced pensions, may have already endured significant losses due to the recent collapse of share prices.  In view of this, the cut seems very unfair.  However, this cut may be vulnerable to the same legal criticism as our own pension cut - some workers may, under the Constitution, have "ownership" rights to these savings.  They may be entitled, as we hope to be in the case of our pension cut, to a full refund in due course.  Perhaps legal experts will be asked to examine this possibility on behalf of savers in the coming days and weeks?

Sharing Interests or Information

Have you any specialist knowledge in any of the following areas that you think might be useful for retired colleagues?  If so, would like to share them through our newsletter?

·   Nutrition/Diet/Food-Intolerance/Allergies:  Did you know that a lot of people have intolerance for certain food-types, particularly dairy products?  Some people who have opted to avoid these foods are much healthier as a result.  Can you share any information about food intolerance with other RSTA members who may not know they are affected?

·   Gentle Fitness/Ballroom Dancing/Golf:   We have had several inquiries from members about golf.  We do not have any formal structure for the golf players among our members to play together.  However, if any branch has 4 or more members who are interested in playing a tournament with members from other branches perhaps we could put them in touch with the other branches and "let them at it."  Please send us the name, phone and mobile number and (if possible) contact email address of an interested contact person from your branch as well as the number of players in your branch who want to take part.  Then we'll see if we can put you in touch with the contact people from other branches.

·   Travel/Places Worth Visiting:  If you know of a place near where you live that members might like to visit for a day or a one-day itinerary you think members might like to take part in (e.g. samples from North East Branch in this issue), please send us the details for a future newsletter.

·   Health/Medical Cards:  The recent pension reduction may entitle a small number of members to a medical card even though it may not be obvious because the gross pension on the top of the pension slip is unchanged.  If in doubt, you can check this with Revenue.

·   Useful household gadgets:  If your grip is not as strong as it used to be, do you know that you can buy gadgets to help you open jam jars, beetroot jars and the like more easily.  Many hardware shops stock these so check around.

·   Books/Book Club:  A Branch could organise among its members a book club.  Members of this club could all read the same book during a particular period and then meet to talk about it.  Alternatively they could read different books and then meet and report to other members whether they think what they read is worth reading or buying.

·   Music/Good YouTube performances:  There are some amazing performances on Youtube that members may wish to tell friends about, for example the "Christmas Food Court Flash Mob" of the Halleluia Chorus or "Emerson - Mommy's Nose is Scary!"  Please let us know of any you think are worth sharing.

·   Useful Websites to visit:  There are lots of websites offering for sale aids and gadgets to make life easier for elderly people who are not as mobile or as strong as they used to be. There are also websites that offer information about almost any area of interest to people regardless of age.  If you have any websites to recommend to colleagues for any reason please let us know so we can share the information with members.

·   Tricks/Jokes/puzzles suitable for Grandchildren:  Please send us any tricks/jokes/puzzles to share with members, to share with their grandchildren.

·   Fishing/Gardening/Astronomy:  When you get older you don't have to stop gardening but it may be easier to change the kind of gardening you do.  Less grass to cut and more patio-space can help.  Raised flowerbeds or window boxes involve less stooping but window boxes need more watering.  This can be a problem if you are going away for a while, but garden centres provide various solutions to this so check them out and keep gardening.

Please send us, by email if possible, anything under any of the above headings that you think might be of interest to members and if it is suitable we will try to include it in forthcoming issues.

A Sunshine Holiday/Spanish Adventure for RSTA Members & Friends

Hotel Las Palmeras,**** Fuengirola, Spain,   October 4th — 14th 2011

Options for booking –all prices are for 10-day stay

1.    Booking with Budget Travel, 29-30 Lr. Abbey St, Dublin 4.  Contact person: Pam.

Phone: 01-4350002.          Quotation: BT 116851                                                                                                                                                                                      

     Cost: Room only:   € 513.00 pps.  (i.e. €1,026.00 for twin room).  € 730.00 for single room.

      This includes flights and transfer to hotel.

2.   Booking directly with Las Palmeras Hotel. (Book early to ensure availability).

      Phone: 00-34-952472700.            Website: Google Las Palmeras Hotel, Fuengirola

      Cost: B & B Twin room: €690.00, Single room: € 570.00,   + cost of Flight*

      Suggestion: Book B & B only as there are good inexpensive restaurants in the vicinity.

3.   Best value can be had in the many privately owned rooms in this same hotel.

      These rooms called studios or apartments have cooking facilities and washing machine.

      Cost:          Studio -- suitable for two people -- € 440.00,   + cost of Flight*     

One bedroom Apartment- -suitable for 2 or 3 people -- € 585.00,   + cost of Flight*

These must be booked with the property management agent -- Helen Dicker

Google Helen’s website:

E-mail:  Phone:0034677071629.  (Please mention my name, below).

*Flights:           This is the flight being provided if you book with Budget Travel:

Aer Lingus             October 4th                  Depart Dublin    07.30            Arrive Malaga    11.30

                                    October 14th                Depart Malaga  12.40           Arrive Dublin       14.40

The cost of this flight is part of the Budget Package (as shown above.).

There are other options available for flights.  The best value and most convenient time (March 22nd) seems to be:  Go with Ryanair € 42.00.   Return with Aer Lingus   € 48.50         Total €90.50

October 4th     Ryanair:             Depart Dublin   09.50               Arrive Malaga   13.50

October 14th    Aer Lingus:      Depart Malaga  12.40               Arrive Dublin     14.40

Another Option: Go with Aer Lingus: Depart Dublin 07.30 or 17.45.       Total: €98.00

Transfer to hotel from Malaga airport - this is included in the Budget package. For others—please let me know your arrival time and I will meet you.

There is a direct train service from the airport to Fuengirola (cost less than €3.00). However if you arrive after midnight, take a taxi (about € 40.00)!

I will be taking a more extended holiday and some members may wish to do likewise.  Please get in touch with me if you intend to travel or if you need further information.

Sarah Scott, RSTA Co-ordinator, 3 Portmarnock Grove, Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Phone: 01-8462088  /  086-4027684.    E-mail

Putting Photographs on our Website

Only a small number of digital photographs from RSTA events can be included in our newsletters (by sending them to the secretary at but photographs can also be put on our website. If you have good photographs from any of your Branch’s adventures, please send them for inclusion on our website to our RSTA webmaster, Tony Clifford (Cork Branch). His email address is on the website Normal photos should be the equivalent of at least 5 inches (12cm) wide and large group photos at least 10 inches (25cm) wide since photos lose clarity if they have to be enlarged.

Please tell retired teacher friends about our website and your branch activities and show them the photographs. If they like what they hear and see they may decide to join the RSTA. Application forms are available on the website.

Would Any Of Your Friends Like To Join The RSTA?

If you have any retired teacher friends who might like to join the RSTA, why not ask them?  If they want to join all you need to do is go to our website - - or let them do so themselves and download a copy of our application form.  This can then be completed and sent to our National Treasurer, Muriel McNicholas, at the address given on the application form.  They will then be notified when their membership is complete.  They may be happy to know that our fee is nominal at €24.00/year.
A good opportunity to raise this issue with colleagues who retired from your school would be if you meet them at a retirement function for a colleague who is retiring now.  Please keep this in mind.  You could bring your copy of this newsletter along to show them what we do.