Wednesday 21 August 2019

INM makes offer in bid to break the deadlock over pensions dispute

Members of the NUJ and Siptu protesting outside the INM EGM last week Photo: Mark Condren
Members of the NUJ and Siptu protesting outside the INM EGM last week Photo: Mark Condren
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Management at Independent News & Media (INM) last night made the first move to break the deadlock in a high-profile pension dispute.

The company, which publishes the country's leading newspapers including the Irish Independent and 'Sunday Independent', said it had made a proposal to trustees of the company's defined benefit pension schemes, and held talks with trustees yesterday.

It came after a high-profile intervention this week by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.

INM had faced criticism amid claims it was seeking to walk away from the defined benefit pension schemes despite generating significant profits. The company management says the schemes are unsustainable given the gap between their assets and liabilities, and insisted this week that it will continue to make significant pension contributions regardless of the move to wind up the defined benefit schemes.

INM said it had "reached the necessary conclusion that the interest of members would be better served if the resources available to provide for pensions were directed towards the company's defined contribution scheme where they can be specifically allocated to the retirement savings accounts of individual members".

However, without extra funding, some future pensioners faced the prospect of losing as much as 30pc of their expected retirement income.

A report yesterday in Industrial Relations News, a trade publication, said trustees of the Independent Newspapers defined benefit pension were understood to have sought an additional €12m from the company to soften the impact of winding up the affected pensions.
Winding up the schemes would generate a one-off gain of €25m for the media company, and annual savings of €1m.

In a statement last night INM confirmed that talks aimed at resolving the pension issue took place yesterday. It is understood separate meetings took place involving management and the respective trustees of two separate schemes.

"INM and the trustees of the INM defined benefit pension plans met today to discuss proposals which have been put by the company to the trustees of both plans. The basis for the allocation of contributions and the exact terms of the wind up of the defined benefit plans is a matter on which the company is consulting with the plan Trustees.

The details of the proposals or the content of the meetings are not being disclosed until matters are finalised by both parties and consultations are complete," the company said in a statement.

On Monday, a protest by around 100 serving and former staff members at INM took place outside an extraordinary general meeting to approve changes to the company capital structure unconnected to the pension issue.

Amid extensive media coverage Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said on RTÉ's Prime Time that he had asked Attorney General Máire Whelan to assess whether it was possible for the Government to intervene in the courts in relation to the plans to wind up the schemes, in the public interest.

Irish Independent

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