Thursday 22 March 2018

Anxious Parc staff to learn of watchdog ruling on pension hole

Laura Noonan

THE Pensions Ombudsman is poised to announce a decision on the long-running Parc Aviation pension row over the next fortnight, the Irish Independent has learned.

Parc's future pensioners lost as much as half their expected retirement income when their scheme was wound up in the red after Parc was sold two years ago.

The situation triggered a raft of complaints to the Ombudsman's office as workers demanded a probe into the way their pension scheme was wound up.

The workers are hoping the Ombudsman will find in their favour and compel Parc's shareholders to use some of the €20m windfall from the company's sale to plug the pension hole.

The Ombudsman's office has been examining the case for over a year and initially hoped to have a determination before Christmas. Ombudsman Paul Kenny yesterday confirmed he expected to have the report on his desk "next week", putting him on course to publish a determination a few days later.

The workers are keen to have a determination as soon as possible because a liquidator has already begun distributing some of Parc's assets.

Mr Kenny said there were mechanisms to recoup money even if it had already been distributed amongst shareholders.

The workers' complaints centre on the way the deficit in their pension fund almost quadrupled between the time when the sale of Parc Aviation was agreed and when the pension fund was eventually wound up.

The former Parc workers argue that the fund should have been wound up as soon as the sale was agreed and they dispute the pension trustees' decision to keep their fund heavily invested in plunging equities.

Even though Parc was solvent when it was sold, the company was under no obligation to plug the pension fund's hole.

The company's owners nonetheless made a one-off contribution of €1m to the scheme, leaving it €1.7m in the red.

Irish Independent

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