Thursday 21 September 2017

Former aviation staff demand €50m pension fund top-up

Mick Wallace TD tries on a protester’s hat at the Aer Lingus pensioner protest at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke
Mick Wallace TD tries on a protester’s hat at the Aer Lingus pensioner protest at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

FORMER aviation workers who have had their pensions slashed by half mounted a protest outside Leinster House, seeking a top-up of around €50m to offset the crippling cuts.

Some 50 former Aer Lingus and Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) staff - who took early retirement packages - took to the streets.

They bore placards reading "Government stands over 60pc pension cuts" and "Pascal Donohoe bows to big business" in protest against the decision to cut their future pensions by a percentage ranging from 48pc to 60pc.

Pensioners drawing incomes from the Irish Airline Staff Superannuation (IASS) retirement plan had their benefits cut in January as part of a deal to tackle the scheme's shortfall of more than €700m.

The cut was the first applied under a legislative change last year, allowing payments to be clawed back from pensioners who are members of insolvent schemes.

Spokesperson for the deferred pensioners group, Vincent Lynch, said around €40m to €50m was needed in a top-up to offset the cuts.

"It's a lot of money," he acknowledged.

However, he said the group were particularly vulnerable because they did not have the option of withdrawing their labour in strike action.

"A colleague of mine retired last year and was due a pension of €26,000 - that's now down to €13,000," he said, adding that workers had retired early on the promise of a liveable pension.

The situation was described as "outrageous" by Lucinda Creighton, who was among TDs who met with protesters yesterday.

Transport Minister Pascal Donohoe said he understood how "disappointed and upset" many of the deferred pensioners are but said he could not intervene for fear of causing even greater risk to them and to everybody else dependent on the pension fund, which has a deficit of over €700m.

He said that if he had not agreed to the measures implemented, it could have placed the entire fund in "a very unknown and dangerous situation."

Irish Independent

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