Monday 23 September 2019

Trustees call for INM guarantee on pension funding

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

Dearbhail McDonald and Cormac McQuinn

Independent News and Media and the trustees of the company's defined-benefit (DB) pension schemes inched closer to agreement yesterday after weeks of controversy.

The trustees called on INM yesterday to guarantee the payment of deficit repair contributions.

The board of INM met yesterday and later issued a statement in which the company said it would continue to make "a significant pension funding contribution of €11.1m per annum from 2013 to 2023".

That sum is made up of €8.1m toward its DB schemes and €3m toward its defined contribution (DC) scheme.

Some €5.6m of the annual €8.1m DB contributions comprise a schedule of deficit repair contributions aimed at eliminating any deficit as agreed in 2013 when INM restructured its DB schemes.

However, members of the schemes have been advised that the annual deficit repair sums are not guaranteed and the company reserves the right to vary or discontinue the amount or timing of any payments where it believes it is necessary "for business reasons".

The trustees, who will meet with trade unions Siptu and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) today, want assurances from INM that the schedule of deficit repair payments will be guaranteed and not altered or reduced in the years ahead.

The schedule of deficit repair payments has emerged as the key battleground between the trustees and INM, which last night stated that funding being made under the defined benefit schemes would continue to be made to the defined contribution scheme.

It is understood that INM will liaise with members of the DB schemes before Christmas following sustained criticism over its decision to stop contributing to its DB schemes.

Senator Mary Alice Higgins told the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee yesterday that many defined benefit schemes were being wound up.

But she said there should not be "unilateral" changes and that it was important that decisions to move from DB pensions to DC schemes should "always be negotiated and agreed".

Social Protection Department assistant secretary Tim Duggan said there was a "tricky" balance to strike if legislation was to be introduced to prevent solvent companies from closing down DB schemes.

Among the advantages he listed was it would "prevent employers from walking away and leaving the scheme high and dry". But he warned that downsides included a potential flight by employers from DB schemes ahead of the legislation being introduced.

Irish Independent

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