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19 February 2009 Edition

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Pension levy should be resisted

“A deluge of opposition” is how Sinn Féin’s TDs and Senator have described the reaction from people working in the public service and their families to the Government’s imposition of the levy on public service pensions. They report that they have never before received such a volume of correspondence on a single issue.
The imposition of the pension levy across the public service is going to hit low to middle income earners worst. When tax allowances are taken into account the higher paid in the public service will benefit most, making the levy even more inequitable.
This levy is especially punitive for the lowest paid grades in the public service. People face substantial weekly loss of earnings. Many of those affected are women whose husbands or partners have been laid off work in the construction industry and who were depending on two incomes to pay their mortgages. This reality for thousands of families who depend on income from both the private and public sectors exposes the despicable attempts by employers, Government and media to divide public and private sector workers.
People are especially angry because they already pay for their pensions and have foregone pay increases under social partnership agreements on the basis that they have a good pension. This further imposition is a step too far and will mean real hardship for many.
The entire social partnership process has been seriously damaged as a result of the collapse of the negotiations over the public service pension levy and if it is to be rebuilt the public service pension levy will have to go.
The trade union movement is to be commended for its programme of action, not only on the levy, but on the need for a real recovery plan based on equity and for a concerted Government strategy of job retention and job creation.

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