Saturday 17 August 2019

Unions demand law to stop firms 'walking away' from pensions

Mr Varadkar has been asked to set up a High Level Commission. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Mr Varadkar has been asked to set up a High Level Commission. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) wants the Government to bring in emergency laws to stop solvent companies "walking away" from pension schemes.

Ictu also wants the establishment of a High Level Commission to develop a strategy to ensure the survival of hundreds of defined benefit pension schemes, covering around 100,000 people.

The Congress Executive Council discussed pensions at a meeting yesterday.

The call comes as efforts continued to resolve the dispute over the winding up of Independent News & Media's (INM) defined benefit pensions.

Ictu's pension expert Fergus Whelan said: "We need Government to move immediately and introduce emergency legislation such as has existed in the UK for almost 20 years and which prevents solvent companies walking away and reneging on their pension obligations."

Mr Whelan said the UK's Debt on the Employer laws prevents such situations arising.

"We clearly need to see similar legislation introduced here as a matter of urgency. Working people who put money into schemes are entitled to see that protected and for the contract they enter into with their employer on pensions to be honoured," he said.

Mr Whelan said Ictu had written to Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar asking for a High Level Commission to look at defined benefit schemes.

The union leadership wants experts, stakeholders and trustees to find ways to ensure the assets of surviving defined benefit schemes can be used in the interests of the rightful owners of those assets.

Earlier this week, INM confirmed it had discussed proposals with trustees following its recent decision to close its defined benefit pension schemes. The company said its closure would not improve the cash position of the company.

And INM said it had no plans to pay a dividend.

Older members of INM's defined benefit (DB) pensions schemes could see their expected retirement income maintained at up to 90pc of their restructured pensions under the proposal.

Irish Independent

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