Current and future An Post pensioners protested outside the Department of the Environment in Dublin today, chanting “Eamon Ryan, time to sign”, demanding Minister Eamon Ryan approves a 2pc yearly pension increase.
Among the crowds were current workers and long-time pensioners who say this increase has been due to them since January of this year, with unexplained delays due to the Environment and Communications Minister not signing off on the document.
They say the 2pc pension increase is owed to them under the Pension Accord of 2014 between the Group of Unions and An Post, and was agreed to by the company in January.
Since 2014, staff pay has increased by 13.75pc while pensioners’ pay has only increased 2.5pc amid worsening inflation.
According to Bernard Clarke, a driver for An Post and the representative of the Independent Workers Union, this “disastrous accord” is where the problem began.
“This accord was reached because the An Post pension fund was in a €200million deficit. The pensioners had no say or vote in that agreement. So since 2014, the pensioners in An Post have only received a 2.5pc pension increase, while the staff at An Post have received 13.75pc. This is an absolute disgrace,” he said.
“We're all going to be pensioners. I'm in An Post 37 years, I'm 56 years of age. I have a limited period of time and if we don't get this right, I will be one of the people that is on the lower pension rate. When you think about it, the average increase in budgets would give a pensioner, on average, about five euros increase. Two and a half per cent in eight years is all they've received.”
Derek Keenan, a postman and the one chanting into the megaphone, said the protest will continue weekly if the demands are not met, with the next protest already scheduled for next Wednesday at 1pm.
“This isn't just a one-off protest, we are going to be here every week until this is signed,” he said.
"We hope that it opens up a broad conversation about what has happened to pensioners’ pay in the last ten years. And we are looking for parity of pay that is linked to the actual wages in the job, as it always was. It should increase at the same rate as the wage increases within the given job.
“Especially with skyrocketing inflation, the maximum they can ever get is a 2pc increase, no matter what the rate of increase in pay for current staff or the rate of inflation. We're talking about people who have given 40 years’ service to a company and to the state - good public service. They find themselves on the brink of poverty in retirement. That's an absolute disgrace. They've paid into this all their lives, and they deserve better.”
One of these pensioners is Eugene Keenan, Derek’s father, who is a former president of the Communications Workers’ Union and wrote a letter the protesters delivered to Minister Ryan’s office.
“It's pittance. Seven months later, we still haven't got that money,” he said.
“He has about eight advisers. One of them should tell him ‘would you sign off on the document and give the people their money?’ That's what they should be doing. I'll advise him if he wants,” he Keenan added jokingly.
While the deal is being revisited next year, the pensioners say they have already borne the brunt of it for the last decade, with their pensions down 11pc when compared to the staff pay.
According to Derek Keenan, some of these pensioners are surviving with only €300 a week.
A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said An Post only formally sought Ministerial Approval on May 4 to increase pensions by 2pc per annum.
The increases are proposed to take effect from January 1 of this year, with a further 2pc per annum to take effect from January 1, 2023.
“Officials in the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications are working with colleagues in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to address any outstanding claims for increases and will conclude this work as quickly as possible.”
This might not be soon enough for the protesters.
“We're at a loss. It's been on his desk now for a number of months, and the pension scheme is in surplus to the tune of €580million. So there's no real reason, they haven't offered any reason as to why it hasn't been paid,” said Derek Keenan.
Mr Clarke added: “We will keep coming back until it's signed. We will keep lobbying TDs, we will do our best and we will try and keep this highlighted and in the public eye as best we can. When the lads retired from the post office, they also lost their voice.”