Saturday 10 December 2016

New York consulate staff challenge entitlements

Six seeking to collectively bargain on social-security payments, writes Gavin McLoughlin

Published 20/03/2016 | 02:30

The six women worked at the Irish Consulate in New York for between 8 and 35 years
The six women worked at the Irish Consulate in New York for between 8 and 35 years

A group of staff employed by Ireland's consulate in New York are seeking to negotiate social security payments and compensation for alleged previous missed payments.

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A legal advisor to the six women said they had been employed by the Irish consulate located at Park Avenue in New York for between eight and 35 years.

The women claim that the consulate did not pay into a social security fund on their behalf and advised them to file their tax returns as independent contractors.

They are entitled to be included in the US social security system and to be compensated for years of exclusion, the employees claim.

They are seeking to collectively bargain with the Department of Foreign Affairs under US industrial-relations law.

"This case is really very simple," their legal advisor, attorney-at-law Shane Humphries, told the Sunday Independent.

"It is about employees of the consulate in New York wishing to fully participate in the US tax and social-security system.

"For decades, they have been denied that opportunity. They simply wish to better prepare for retirement and to do so they need the full co-operation of the Irish Government.

"It will require the Irish Government to step up and do the right thing for a group of employees with over 100 years of combined service," said Shane Humphries.

"All they are asking for initially is the appointment of someone who can represent the Irish Government to collectively bargain with the employees to settle these longstanding issues in a equitable manner."

When queried on the matter, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: "The department does not comment on the circumstances of individual employees."

"As is standard across the mission network, the department complies fully with local labour law requirements in the US."

This is not the first time that a state agency has been challenged by a US employee over terms of employment.

A former long-time employee of Tourism Ireland recently sued the agency in the United States over post-retirement health-insurance entitlements.

A case filed in a California district court on behalf of Thomas Heneghan claimed that his former employer, Tourism Ireland, reneged on an agreement to pay for most of the cost of United States health insurance for him, his spouse and his dependant children for the duration of his retirement.

The former employee said he had made no other arrangements for health insurance up until his retirement in 2010, based on the agreement.

Heneghan's complaints include breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

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