State offers to fund half of pension pots at Waterford Crystal
THE State has offered to fund up to half of the pensions of the Waterford Crystal workers who lost out when the company collapsed.
The payments would be made immediately if the deal was accepted by the workers, the Irish Independent has learned.
It is estimated the move could cost the Exchequer up to €100m.
It follows a victory for the workers in the European Court of Justice in a case taken against the State, with the level of compensation to be paid by the State to be determined by the High Court.
The case in the High Court has yet to be heard, but it has emerged that the State has written to solicitors for the 1,500 workers making an offer to pay half of their pensions.
It is now five years since they lost their jobs and the pension scheme was so poorly funded that they were told they would only get between 18pc and 28pc of their pension entitlements.
And it is almost a year since the victory for the workers in the European Court of Justice.
A source close to the Government denied claims made this week by Jimmy Kelly of the Unite trade union that nothing has been done by the State.
The State has made the offer in an effort to resolve the proceedings, the source said.
The offer involves 50pc of the workers' immediate or prospective benefits being paid on the basis of standard transfer values (excluding State pension, which would be paid in addition to the offer).
But the offer would have to be accepted by all of the workers.
The State also made clear it is open to the possibility of mediation for individual workers who were the biggest losers from the collapse of the scheme.
The government source said: "The 50pc settlement is available immediately, provided all agree to it.
"In addition, the offer of mediation could also offer a process to recover any losses suffered by workers who have already qualified for their pension but have not received the benefits they were due."
Making good the full value of the pensions is estimated to cost €200m.
They had a defined benefit scheme, which meant they were promised two-thirds of their final salary once they had worked for 40 years.
Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly welcomed the fact that the Government had opened discussions with the workers, but said the British government had lost a similar case and paid out 90pc of the pension values.
"In that context, offering 50pc is not treating people with decency and respect," he said.
The High Court case, where the settlement will be decided if the talks are not concluded, is due for mention next Tuesday.