Monday 24 September 2018

CIE pension row heats up as union warns it not to block staff meetings

The threats came after a warning from management at the state transport company that specific details surrounding the pension issues must be kept confidential. Photo: Stock photo
The threats came after a warning from management at the state transport company that specific details surrounding the pension issues must be kept confidential. Photo: Stock photo

Fearghal O'Connor

A row over the proposed restructuring of pension funds at CIE has heated up, with trade unions warning the company not to "frustrate" information meetings they are threatening to hold with staff.

The threats came after a warning from management at the state transport company that specific details surrounding the pension issues must be kept confidential.

A committee made up of representatives from both management and union sides has attempted to reach a solution to a row that threatens to become a more serious dispute.

Siptu official Paul Cullen wrote to CIE's head of human resources Declan Carlyle just before Christmas warning he would call meetings with staff this week.

"Please do not attempt to frustrate these meetings taking place," he wrote. Such meetings have led to passenger disruption at semi state transport companies in the past.

Cullen's letter said Siptu did not accept the company's "interpretation of the confidentiality of Committee business, past and present" and he was highly critical of the CIE Board's approach in relation to pension matters.

"You speak about 'confidentiality rules' and then immediately go on to discuss the business of the Committee, which is now defunct," continued Cullen, adding that staff had been "enraged" by the company's approach to the matter.

CIE's defined pensions are understood to have deficits over €280m, based on minimum funding standards, which insist schemes must have enough assets to immediately cover all liabilities for existing pensioners, as well as active and deferred members.

Trade unions and others have long argued that applying this to defined benefit schemes is too high a standard that many funds struggle to meet. Unions at CIE are understood to fear that the minimum standard issue will be used in this case by management at the company to reduce pension benefits for workers. They are concerned at the methods used to value the assets of the schemes and are demanding funding from the company to seek independent legal opinion on the matter, a request that has been refused to date, it is understood.

Management has insisted that it has no plans to reduce benefits and that, in any case, it is a matter for the trustees of the fund to meet Pension Authority requirements.

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