Questions for Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

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Dáil Issues, Jobs, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the fact that the Workplace Relations Bill failed to include a mechanism for retired workers to access the State’s industrial relations machinery when their pension is affected, his plans to deal with this issue.
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 12th February, 2015.

Ref No: 5858/15
R E P L Y

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Nash TD)

I fully appreciate the concerns of retired and deferred members of pension schemes whose schemes are being restructured, particularly where such restructuring may impact on existing or potential pension benefits.

In this regard, the question of pensioner groups having access to the State’s industrial relations machinery in pursuing pension scheme grievances is an issue to which I have given careful consideration.

In doing so, I have borne in mind that the industrial relations system in Ireland is voluntary in nature both as regards access to the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. Any change to that principle which would put in place a mandated right to be part of the process would alter fundamentally the conduct of industrial relations.

As it stands, where changes to pension schemes are negotiated at company level whether as a result of a crisis in the scheme or otherwise, the outcome of that engagement cannot, of itself, change the pension scheme. Rather, any proposed changes to the scheme are effected through the trust deeds and rules of the scheme and are at the discretion of the parties so designated in the rules/deeds of the scheme. In my view, it is within this framework, rather than through the State’s industrial relations machinery, that a collective approach would be most effective.

In terms of changes to pension schemes generally, the Trustees of a particular pension scheme are required by law to act in the best interests of all the members, be they deferred or pensioner members. Until recently, this has been done on an individual basis.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection has recently provided for the recognition by trustees and the Pensions Authority of groups representing the interests of retired and deferred scheme members of a particular pension scheme. The required revised section 50 guidance has been published by the Pensions Authority.

From now on, the trustees of a pension scheme are required to notify the groups representing the interests of retired and deferred scheme members where the trustees of a scheme propose to apply to the Pensions Authority to restructure scheme benefits under section 50 of the Pensions Act. This notification affords the representative group an opportunity to make a submission to the trustees of the scheme in relation to such proposals.

In addition, the Pensions Authority is now required to notify groups representing the interest of scheme members where the Pensions Authority proposes to either issue a unilateral direction under section 50 of the Pensions Act to the trustees of a scheme to restructure scheme benefits or to wind up a pension scheme under section 50B of the Pensions Act. This notification affords the representative group an opportunity to make representations to the Pensions Authority in relation to such proposals.

Furthermore, in such situations, the representative group will also have the option of making an appeal to the High Court on a point of law in relation to such proposals.

DAIL QUESTION

NO. 15

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent and basis of his Department’s involvement with the expert panel dealing with the IASS, including the initiative proposed on 2 December 2014 by the Secretary General of his Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; and the subsequent action.
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 12th February, 2015.

Ref No: 5857/15
R E P L Y

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Nash TD)

Officials from my Department, including the Secretary General, have attended a number of meetings involving officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, IBEC and ICTU as part of the review process of the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme (IASS) undertaken by the Expert Panel.

The involvement of officials from my Department in the meetings was in the context of providing relevant advice and expertise as required in line with my Department’s responsibility for industrial relations issues generally and, specifically, with regard to the complex industrial relations issues that remain to be resolved arising from the relevant Labour Court Recommendations of 2013.

At the request of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Expert Panel was asked to re-engage with SIPTU and ICTU in relation to matters dealt with in its report, including the actuarial assumptions, and to provide clarity on those matters. There were also discussions immediately before Christmas between the Departments, members of the Expert Panel and ICTU in relation to this engagement which helped to refine the areas of focus for the Panel.

That process is ongoing at present and it is for the Panel to complete its work as effectively and efficiently as possible in providing the clarifications sought.