Ministers Questions: Pensions

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Dáil Issues, Jobs, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the developments regarding mechanisms to allow former employees access the State’s industrial relations machinery to deal with pension issues.

– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 10th July, 2014.

      Ref No: 29855/14

 

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton)

I am informed by my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection that any consideration of a restructure of pension scheme benefits under section 50 of the Pensions Act must comply with the provisions in the Pensions Act and with guidance issued by the Pensions Board. This guidance makes provision for the notification of all pensioners in advance of any application to the Pensions Board to restructure scheme benefits. In such circumstances a pensioner will have at least one month to make a submission to the trustees of the scheme in relation to such a proposal. The Pensions Board must be satisfied that all the provisions in the guidance are complied with before the Board will consider issuing a notice to restructure scheme benefits.

It is important to note that the trustees of a pension scheme are required to act in the best interests of all the members. On that basis, the trustees have to take account of the interests of the deferred and pensioner members in any restructuring proposals they make.

The question of whether it is appropriate that pensioner groups have access to the State’s industrial relations machinery in pursuing pension scheme grievances has also been raised for consideration.

Officials from my Department and the Department of Social Protection have held discussions to explore the issue of retired persons’ collective representation with the Trustees of the Pension Schemes of which they are members and, perhaps more problematically, with former employers where changes to the scheme are being negotiated between employers and employees that may impact on retired persons.

My Officials have also consulted with the industrial relations bodies under the auspices of my Department on the issues that arise in the context of collective representation of retired and deferred members of pension schemes in such circumstances.

In this context, issues that arise include;
– the relationship, if any, between pensioners or deferred pensioners and their former employer. In this context, the relationship is with the pension scheme and by extension with the trustees of the scheme, rather than the employer;
– the representativeness of such groups and whether they have a mandate or mechanisms to conclude a collective agreement.