Why were key protections for workers on Defined Benefit Schemes dropped from Social Welfare Bill?

July 14, 2017

Today’s Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill is more noteworthy for its omissions rather than its provisions, according to Róisín Shortall TD.

Deputy Shortall said:

“T.D.s were given the clear understanding in early drafts of the Bill in May that it would deal with some of the enormous insecurity affecting defined benefit schemes. As we have seen from the sudden changes to the Irish News and Media pension scheme, workers on defined benefit schemes remain completely exposed to the whims of employers as to whether or not they will have an adequate pension when they reach retirement age. At the publication of the Heads of the Bill in May, there was clearly a commitment at that point to deal with the problem  of profitable companies suddenly walking away from pension commitments.

“At a pre-legislative hearing on June 1st, officials stated that the Bill would provide for “restrictions on the ability of employers to trigger the closure of a pension scheme without due notice and proper engagement There was a clear understanding the INM scenario would be dealt with.

“However, the Bill presented to the Dáil this week does not provide for any such thing. Several Heads were dropped from the Bill. In particular, one of these, Head 12, would have prevented employers suddenly ceasing payments into a defined benefit scheme.

“What workers need is legislation to prevent solvent companies walking away from pension promises. What we got is a half-hearted attempt at reform that will do very little to protect workers.

“Myself and others have tabled several amendments to Social Welfare Bills over the past few years seeking to correct this anomaly for Irish workers and to bring us into line with the protections enjoyed by workers in the UK and other jurisdictions. However, time after time, they have been rejected by Government.

“Yet again, the Department and the Minister in charge of it have failed to provide adequate protection in law for the pension rights of workers and have left them high and dry.”

ENDS

14 July 2017