Friday 24 May 2019

Strikes threat at Irish Life in row over pensions

Photo: Stock image
Photo: Stock image

Anne Marie Walsh

The largest pension provider in the State faces the threat of rolling strikes after Easter over its plan to close its workers' scheme, despite having a big surplus.

Almost 70pc of Unite members have voted in favour of industrial action to defend their pensions. More than 700 workers were balloted, including some who are not members of the scheme.

Sources revealed the industrial action is likely to begin with one-day strikes, but will be ramped up unless the row is resolved. The union is only legally obliged to give a week's notice of industrial action.

Irish Life announced it will close its defined benefit scheme from June 30 and wants to move staff to a cheaper defined contribution scheme. It was a surprising move, given the healthy state of the scheme.

Irish Life has been condemned for the decision as it is currently bidding to play a role in the State's plan to set up a new auto-enrolment scheme for thousands of workers without pensions. The current scheme has more than 3,300 members and has never been in deficit, according to the union. It has a surplus of more than €200m and assets of €1.1bn.

Unite said the ballot reflects anger among the workforce. Members will decide on the type of industrial action and when it will be taken. The union has calculated workers would have to put between 20pc and 40pc of their salary into the new scheme to get the same pension they would expect from the existing one.

Irish Life said it has confirmed to staff and their union representatives the date of ending future accrual on two defined benefit pension schemes - the Irish Life Staff Benefits Scheme and Canada Life Irish Pension Scheme - will be June 30. "Irish Life has made the decision to end future accrual on the two defined benefit schemes following a detailed review of the liabilities and costs of the schemes."

Irish Independent

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