SIPTU has called on the Government to reverse pay cuts for public servants who continue to work after the age of 65.

Current Government policy is that those who opt to remain in employment beyond their 65th birthday must be paid at the first (lowest) point on the incremental pay scale - even though they may already have reached the top of the pay scale based on service and experience.

However, SIPTU notes that nurses and midwives are exempt from this rule, and are allowed to maintain their higher incremental point beyond the age of 65.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said that it was intolerable, mean-spirited and ill-thought out that swathes of health workers, who had given their whole lives to the public service, face the indignity of being "rehired" into their jobs on substantially less pay.

He said all public sector workers should be treated fairly and equitably, particularly in light of the financial burden placed on workers because of the increase in the qualifying age for the Contributory State Pension.

He claimed there was no real financial benefit for the State as public servants are entitled to incremental credit for previously relevant experience, which would mean their years of experience would be factored into any new contract.

Mr Bell also argues that the policy of reducing pay after 65 would impact disproportionately on women, as many female public servants do not qualify for full pension benefit either because they joined the public service later in life, or because of career gaps due to caring obligations.

SIPTU is to meet the HSE on Thursday to discuss the issue, but has warned that if the row is not resolved within ten days, the union will refer the matter to the Labour Court.

On Friday, the union will convene a National Ambulance Conference to discuss fears that ambulance personnel will be expected to work until 68 or even 70 years of age.

Unlike frontline Government employees in the gardaí, Defence Forces or Fire Service, HSE ambulance staff are not entitled to retire at the age of 55. 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform noted that last December the Government agreed to an increase in the compulsory retirement age from age 65 to age 70 for public servants recruited before 1 April 2004.

Legislation to give effect to this change is to be treated as a priority for publication in the Spring/Summer of 2018  so that the new compulsory retirement age can be implemented as soon as possible.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform acknowledged that the general public service policy is that when a retired employee is rehired, they are paid at the minimum point of the relevant scale, rather than at the point they had reached when they retired.

However, it said that once the new legislation is enacted, public servants who reach 65 years of age will be retained on current terms and conditions rather than minimum rates.

The Department said any exceptions to the general rules are a matter for sectors subject to overall policy considerations including the demand for scarce skills.

Other sources indicated that only a "tiny number" of people would be affected before the new legislation is implemented, and that they are at least being spared a year on unemployment benefit due to the raising of the qualifying age for the state pension.