Sunday 19 November 2017

Forget useless reports and roll out mandatory scheme, says O'Connor

Siptu chief Jack O'Connor Photo: Tom Burke
Siptu chief Jack O'Connor Photo: Tom Burke

Anne Marie Walsh

The leader of the country's largest union has said a new scheme for workers without a pension could start as early as May Day next year if the Government gets on with it.

Siptu president Jack O'Connor said you could paper the walls of Liberty Hall with the amount of reports governments have commissioned on resolving the impending pensions crisis.

He urged Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to put legislation in place immediately after he said rolling out a universal scheme in which workers were automatically enrolled was a priority.

"The Government needs to bite the bullet on a mandatory pensions system," Mr O'Connor said. "We are pretty much unique in not having such a system, certainly in the eurozone.

"With legislation enacted prior to Christmas, it could start as early as May Day. This work has already been done, including in Australia, so they don't have to reinvent the wheel. I'm calling on the minister to bring forward proposals immediately and get approval for legislation, and not to bother producing useless reports.

"I remember being engaged in social partnership to press this case in 2000; it was going on before I got there."

He accepted it could take at least 10 years before the level of contribution from the State, employers and workers would be enough to generate a decent pension.

Mr O'Connor has criticised a pension report launched by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last week, describing it as "a useless piece of window dressing".

This includes the fact that workers forced to retire at 65 under their employment contracts cannot draw the State pension until they reach 66.

"Laws should be enacted to make it clear that people can continue to work if they wish to do so and cannot be dismissed by virtue of reaching 65 years of age," he said.

"The legal situation regarding the right to continue working has to be cleared up. At the minute it is governed by a piece of amending legislation to the Equality Act, enacted last year. What it purports to do is give effect in Irish law to decisions of the European Court of Justice on this issue, but it does the opposite."

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said it had no comment to make on the union leader's remarks.

Irish Independent

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