Wednesday, 12 June 1929
Seanad Éireann Debate
That the Secondary Teachers' Superannuation Scheme, 1929, made by the Minister for Education with the consent of the Minister for Finance and laid before the Seanad on Wednesday, 12th June, 1929 under the Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1928 (No. 32 of 1928), be approved.
This is the first scheme, I believe, made by the Minister for Education under the powers conferred on him by the Teachers' Superannuation Act, passed by the Oireachtas at the end of last year. The lot of the secondary teacher, as is generally known, under the old régime was anything but an enviable one. Salaries were meagre, and there was no provision for old age; I believe there were instances of teachers terminating their days in workhouses. It has remained for an Irish Government to remedy that position. In  1924 a salary scheme was introduced under which the Government took direct responsibility for the payment of the incremental portion of these teachers' salaries, the basic portion of the salaries being payable by the schools in which the teachers were employed. This pension scheme, which is now before the Oireachtas for approval, follows that salary scheme. The object is to provide that the teachers will have some provision for their old age.
I do not propose to go into the matter in detail. The Minister for Education is here, and will give whatever information is necessary. But it may be well to note that this scheme that is outlined in this White Paper that has been issued is a voluntary one, so that teachers may avail of its provisions or decline to do so, according as they wish. Many of the teachers in secondary schools are members of religious orders, and they may not desire to avail of such a scheme as this. For that reason, it seems a satisfactory idea to have the scheme voluntary. The scheme is also contributory in the sense that teachers have been required to make contributions towards the costs of the pensions. These contributions, of course, are required only from the teachers who enter the scheme. The manner in which the older teachers are dealt with without contributing to the costs of these pensions is, I think, very reasonable. Such teachers receive two-fifths of their salaries as pension under the scheme as compared with half salary in the case of the teacher who has paid his prescribed contributions, and the rate of pensions in regard to old teachers is reasonable and satisfactory, I think. The scheme is rather intricate, and it will require much more comprehensive references than I have made to it, but I believe that will be done by the Minister for Education. I formally move the motion for approval of the scheme.
Mr. Connolly: For my own information, and perhaps for the information  of some of our friends here, I would like to ask if we have any power in connection with this matter, and, if so, are we asked to make any decision about it? Is it merely a matter of courtesy to let us have this proposed scheme yesterday or this morning, and then to ask us for our approval right now? I would like to be clear as to where we stand in the matter, as to whether we have any authority or anything to do with it. If we have anything to do with it, I would suggest that we should get some time to digest the proposals which are contained in the scheme. I have not had time or opportunity yet to look into the matter, and I do not know whether or not it would affect the matter if I had anything to say on it.
Mr. Johnson: I only want to point out to the Senator that the Act under which this is required to be placed before the Seanad also requires that it shall not be operative until confirmed by resolution of each House. That, of course, is the reason why it is brought up here. It cannot be amended by the House; it must be accepted or rejected. I think that that is a very proper provision. But I agree that it is the kind of proposal that, after its general form and its implications have been explained by a responsible Minister, a final decision on it ought to be deferred until we have had time to read it in the light of that explanation.
Minister for Education (Professor O'Sullivan): That is a matter, of course, entirely for the House. Senator Johnson was quite right in pointing out that this scheme would not become operative until it had been positively approved by both Houses, not merely that it should lie on the Table of each House and simply pass by default, but that each House must, by a positive act, approve of the scheme. I was under the impression that the scheme had been in the hands of Senators for the last couple of days. It is a matter for the Seanad to decide whether they will accept the scheme or reject it, or when they will accept it or reject it.
The scheme which is now brought forward for the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas is the first scheme under the Act which was passed last November. The suggestion is that the scheme should come into operation, if the two Houses approve of it, on the 1st of next August, the beginning of the new school year. As Senator Milroy has pointed out, the scheme is voluntary, that is, a teacher may become a member of the scheme, or refuse to become a member of the scheme if he so desires. Every teacher is not compelled to become a member of the scheme. It is contributory, that is, not merely will the State undertake certain obligations in that respect, but certain contributions will be required from the teachers and also from the schools.
I need not point out that secondary teachers are not public servants; they are under private contracts with private institutions, namely, the secondary schools. The basic portion of their salaries—in the case of men £200 a year, and in the case of women £180 a year—is paid to them by the schools, but the State pays directly to them the increments which are given to them every year. The contributions will be made up as follows:—If you take as the normal salary of a teacher the basic salary of £200 a year, plus the number of increments he has got, roughly speaking, I suppose the salary that a man would reach after the full period of service, would be something like £450—that is, if he has an Honours Degree. I may be wrong in the precise figure. He pays from the time he starts at £200 up to the time of his pension 4 per cent. on that basic salary of £200, plus his incremental salary. The school will pay 2½ per cent. on what it pays to the teacher, that is, the basic salary of £200.
There is always a difficulty with these schemes, and in this the difficulty is how to deal with teachers, some of whom have been serving for  the last forty years, and some of them longer, who would retire immediately if the scheme came into operation, and who would have retired, if possible, two years ago, were there such a scheme in existence. It is obvious that there can be no contribution on their part either from the schools or from themselves. That particular class will possibly come off best under the scheme. On the whole, I think they get much better terms than people, for instance, under a similar transitional scheme in the North of Ireland. Take the teacher there who has served forty years. I think I am correct in saying that the pension would be something like £120 for a teacher who retired before the year 1932. We do not intend to have a limited sum of that kind with a person who has forty years' service, but to give him one-hundredth of his standard salary for every year of service up to forty, so that if he has attained the maximum salary he would get a pension of about £160. Of course, other teachers who do not retire immediately, but who continue in service after 1st August, will have a period which will be made up of a contributory period and a non-contributory period, and the scheme lays down that they will get one-eightieth for every year of contributory service and one-hundredth for every year of non-contributory service.
There are certain other provisions in the scheme as to the payment of gratuities. It is provided in the case of the death of a teacher that his contributions will be paid back, with compound interest at 3 per cent. In other cases the contributions will be paid back, for instance, when a person voluntarily leaves the service altogether. In the case of a person having to retire owing to ill-health and who has not a certain number of years to his credit, he also will get his contributions. Provision is also made for the case of national teachers who have already contributed to the National Teachers' Pensions Fund but who ceased to be national teachers and came over into this scheme by becoming secondary  teachers. They can join this pension scheme by bringing with them to it the money they get back from the National Teachers' Pension Fund. Furthermore, there is provision for those who have been secondary teachers and who have got approved posts in the Civil Service—that is, posts in accordance with the Act— by which they shall not lose whatever pension rights they had got while they were teachers.
The general aim is to see in these provisions that all the genuine teachers are met, and if they are genuine secondary teachers they will have a chance of getting pensions. There may be some few other matters about which Senators would like to get some information.
Professor O'Sullivan: If all the teachers join the maximum cost would not exceed from £8,000 to £10,000 a year, spread over all the years. But it would really be impossible to say what the State contribution will be until we know the number of teachers who will join and until we have much more information about the fund and its prospects than we have at present.
Mr. Brown: This is obviously a very complicated scheme. I followed as well as I could what the Minister said in explaining it. It is obvious from what the Minister said that as the scheme will not come into operation until August 1st nobody's  rights would be affected by a few days' delay. I know nothing at all about the subject. We have at least one member of the profession who, as a national teacher, does know something about it. Personally, I think it would be unwise for us and wrong in principle to deal with a complicated scheme like this practically on the very day that it has been laid on the Table of the House. I would, therefore, suggest that as a mere matter of principle we ought not to deal with it to-day, and in this case I do not think that the Seanad has sufficient knowledge or has had a sufficient explanation of this very complicated scheme to deal with it now. I would, therefore, propose that we postpone it until the next day we meet.
Mr. Cummins: I would like to ask the Minister a few questions before I second that proposal. I followed the discussions in the Dáil when the Minister got the Bill for this scheme passed. That Bill was simply permissive. I understand that the provisions of the Bill have not yet been discussed in the Dáil.
Mr. Cummins: That was the difficulty, I understand. He has to get the permission of the Dáil. He has exhibited a great deal of keenness in getting the thing through, and his keenness has been appreciated by the people concerned, but we were more or less in the dark up to a few days ago as to the provisions of the scheme. When I came here to-day I found a document awaiting me from the secondary teachers pointing out certain deficiencies in the scheme.  Unfortunately, that has disappeared among my papers and I cannot find it at the moment. If it would not interfere with the coming into effect of the scheme at the time appointed by the Minister, I think that Senator Brown's suggestion is a practical one. We are more or less in the dark, and good as the provisions may be— and I recognise that in them an honest effort has been made to meet the case—I understand that there are some little points with reference to which those concerned would like to make representations. Apart from that, I think that the Seanad in justice to itself requires some little time to think over the matter. I would not second Senator Brown's proposal if I thought that it would be the means of delaying the scheme for any unconscionable time.
Mr. Comyn: The Minister has said that under his scheme he is particularly generous to the old secondary teachers, that is, the teachers who have been working for the last thirty or forty years. So far as I can gather from his statement, the extent of his generosity is this, that he will give them only one per cent. of their basic salary for every year of service—that is one-hundredth—during which they were non-contributors, and one-fortieth for the period during which they were contributors. I want to know would it be possible, after a further period, to induce the Minister to be even a little more generous to these old secondary teachers?
Professor O'Sullivan: I did not say that I was generous to any one, or the opposite. I said that, in comparison with the contributory teachers, the non-contributory teachers have come off somewhat better in this scheme. I cannot quite follow the Senator's reference to the one-hundredth part of their salaries. All pensions are dealt with in fractions. Even one-sixtieth might look small. So far as the scheme is concerned, the Government has gone as far as a Government can go in view of the finances of the State. I am sorry that I cannot say that there is any harm in postponing this. I do not  think it would hold up the scheme in any way if it can be discussed the next time the Seanad meets rather than to-day. The scheme has been made by the Minister for Education, with the approval of the Minister for Finance, and it is up to the Seanad and the Dáil to accept or reject the scheme as it stands.
Mr. Jameson: We know now that the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Education are agreed about this scheme, but we have not heard the other side. Are the teachers satisfied, and are the people who will provide the £200 satisfied about the 2½ per cent.? Apparently it is not public money that is being dealt with, and we do not seem to have much right for interference.
Professor O'Sullivan: So far as the teachers are concerned, I do not like to say that they are satisfied, but if they were asked whether they would have the scheme or not I should hazard that they would say “Yes.” I should like to point out that the scheme is voluntary. No teacher that is dissatisfied with it is compelled to go into it. There is some difference, so far as the schools are concerned. If a teacher opts to come into the scheme, he then pays his 4 per cent., and the school has deducted from it the 2½ per cent. It is the only body, so to speak, that has no choice. The teacher has the choice. Various deputations have urged a pension scheme for secondary teachers; and the schools are the employers of the teachers and not the Government. As well as my memory serves me, I think that the schools consented to the idea of a contribution from them. They are not ignorant of what is being done in this matter.
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