New bill to protect pensions set to go before the Dáil
A new bill, aimed at preventing profitable companies from targeting the pension schemes of their workers, will be presented to the Dáil next month.
The proposal comes after Independent News and Media (INM) announced it would cease contributing to its defined benefit pension schemes for employees.
The publisher of this newspaper plans to close down the scheme and is involved in a process with the plan's trustees on funding to be provided to members to transfer them to new pension plans.
Labour Party spokesperson on social protection, Willie Penrose, revealed yesterday he has drafted a bill to amend the Pensions Act.
This would protect workers when their defined benefit scheme is being wound up and/or if their employer remains solvent.
"We have seen with the recent decision by INM to wind down its defined benefit pension scheme the urgent need for the pension rights of workers to be defended and protected.
"More than 100,000 people are covered by the 700-plus defined benefit pension schemes in this State. These are workers who have felt safe in the knowledge they had money put aside for their retirement," Mr Penrose said.
But he said workers must now be "seriously worried" that a precedent is being set whereby profitable companies could walk away from a pension.
Mr Penrose said he would seek to introduce the bill when the Dáil resumes in January.
"Fair-minded persons would agree that it is wrong that shareholders will profit from a corporate restructuring while employees have their pension entitlements severely reduced," he said.
INM said earlier this month that despite reports, it had no plans to pay dividends after closing down the pension scheme.
It said €11.1m a year pension contributions will be made from 2013 to 2023.
"The total projected investment from 2013 to 2023 is circa €115m. Any funding being made under the defined benefit schemes will continue to be made to the defined contribution scheme," a statement said.
Consultation with the INM pension trustees is ongoing.