Tag Archives: Pensions

From top: Leinster House; Ken Foxe

Yesterday.

In The Business Post.

Rachel Lavin reported:

The details of lump sum payments and pensions made to TDs and senators leaving office will no longer be made public, an internal review by the Oireachtas has decided.

The move comes after the Information Commissioner ruled in April that the public release of the pensions paid to former taoisigh, presidents and ministers would involve a “significant breach” of their privacy.

The Oireachtas review has now extended this interpretation to outgoing TDs and senators, concluding that their right to privacy now trumps the public interest when it comes to publishing the details of their termination and pension pay, even though the money involved comes from public funds.

The decision means “hundreds of thousands of euros in termination pay will now go unscrutinised” Ken Foxe, a journalist and Freedom of Information (FOI) campaigner said.

Politicians’ golden handshakes no longer subject to FOI (Sunday Business Post, Rachel Lavin)

Previously7: Who Took This Decision?

From top: Public Expenditure and Reform, Secretary General Robert Watt; Reply to Ken Foxe

Last month, as he has done for years, Journalist Ken Foxe asked through Freedom of Information how much is being paid in lump sums, pensions, or termination pay to former TDs Senators, judges, etc.

He was rebuffed.

Leinster House said under new GDPR rules that the public interest in knowing how/where public money is spent does not outweigh the privacy rights of former public representatives.

Meanwhile.

This morning.

Via The Irish Examiner:

Internal emails released by the department show [Public Expenditure and Reform, Secretary General Robert Watt] expressing surprise at the decision and asking why nobody had asked him about it.

Mr Watt had been sent a media report about the case, and wrote: “Who took this decision? I was never consulted …”

In response, an official said:

“We sent note and detail to you on this at the time.” Mr Watt answered back saying: “I don’t understand why we should not release the information.”

An official responded: “The decision not to release the information was made on the basis that it is personal information but the aggregate data was released i.e. the total amounts paid in pensions to ministers.”

Top civil servant queried change to political pensions info rule (Irish Examiner)

Previously: Making Personal Payments From the Public Purse Private

Rollingnews

This afternoon.

Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

A march from the Custom House to the Department of Finance by Community Employment (CE) Supervisors and their supporters over pensions.

A total of 1,200 CE scheme supervisors have been overseeing 900 state funded services for almost 30 years but do not count as public sector workers.

Community employment schemes hit by strike action (RTÉ)

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

Today.

Outside the constituency office of Fine Gael Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys in Cootehill, Co Cavan.

Galway CE Supervisor Network tweetz:

Fine Gael candidate Heather Humphreys was paid a visit by Cavan-based Community Employment Supervisors wondering why, while in Government, she didn’t honour the [2008] Labour Court recommendation to provide a pension for CE Supervisors.

Meanwhile…

Yesterday…

Protesters also called for the pension at the opening of the new Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy bridge over the River Barrow between Glenmore in Co Kilkenny and New Ross, Co Wexford.

Also yesterday…

Demonstrators protested outside the constituency office of Minister for Education Joe McHugh in Donegal.

Pics via Wexford CE Supervisors and Kate Campbell

Meanwhile…

On Monday…

Protesters outside the constituency office of Fine Gael Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat Breen in Ennis, Co Clare.

Via Galway CE Supervisor Network

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty

Last night.

The Irish Independent reported that public service employees, who joined after April 6, 1995 and who can retire at 63, can access a supplemental pension equal to the State pension until their State pension begins to be paid out at 66.

However, this is not available to private sector workers who are legally obliged to retire at 65.

Instead, they must claim Jobseekers’ Benefit until they reach the age of 66.

The State pension age is due to go to 67 next year and 68 from 2028.

The Jobseekers’ Benefit payment, the Irish Independent reported, is €45 less than the supplemental pension that public service workers can receive.

Later last night, Hugh O’Connell reported that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, on the campaign trail, said “Fine Gael plans to introduce a transition payment at the same rate as the State pension to avoid people having to apply for the dole when they retire”.

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty then released a statement saying:

“Tonight, I can confirm that this new transition pension will be paid at a rate equivalent to the Contributory State Pension. This change provides financial certainty to people retiring at 66.”

This morning.

Philip Ryan, of the Irish Independent, told RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke:

“They’re all scrambling to get around this. Really they’ve been pushed into this corner by the Labour party and Sinn Féin who’ve made commitments. The Labour party not to allow the increase to go next year to 67 and Sinn Féin to go even further and say it will be reduced to 65.

“So both parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been all over the place on this, I think.

“And last night we had, first of all we had the Taoiseach suggesting that it’s transitional payment which would match the State pension would be introduced for people who are retiring from 65 onwards.

“Then the statement came out from Social Protection, Minister Regina Doherty, seemed to be suggesting that this transitional payment will only kick in next year when the State pension goes up to 67.

“So we’re a little bit, still unclear on where the parties stand on this.

“And then you also have Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, at one point saying that, he seemed to be deferring the increase, pending a review. But now they seem to be going for the transitional payment as well.”

Anyone?

Transitional payment for retirees at same rate as State pension to avoid anomaly confirmed (The Irish Independent)

Listen back in full here

Rollingnews

Governernment policy on pension qualifying age “wholly unacceptable” – Patricia King (ICTU)

Scramble for grey vote with pension age row (Independent,ie)

Martin pledges to defer increasing pension age to 67 if FF takes power (Herald)

Journalist and lecturer Ken Foxe, founder of investigative news site Noteworthy, sought details of the pensions paid to all former constitutional/ministerial/judicial office holders in 2017 and 2018.

But the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform refused to give Mr Foxe a detailed breakdown – saying the individuals’ right to privacy outweighed the public interest.

Instead, the department released the total amount paid and the number of people within each group who received pensions (see tables above for amounts paid in 2017 and 2018).

Mr Foxe is reporting that that this is the first time the State has refused to give a detailed breakdown of the pensions paid.

He’s also reporting that, up until 2016, details of how much former taoisigh, presidents, and ministers “were published as a matter of routine on the Department of Finance website” but this ended in 2017 due to GDPR rules.

Mr Foxe will be appealing the decision.

€28 million in pension payments to former TDs, Senators and government ministers over the past two years (Noteworthy)

Ken Foxe

From top: scenes from a protest yesterday outside Leinster House by Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors of Community Employment (CE) schemes ; Bethany Langham

In 2008, the Labour Court in Ireland recommended that it is the responsibility of the Government to provide pensions for the Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors of Community Employment (CE) schemes in Ireland.

Eleven years later, the Government continues to ignore this ruling on the basis that they are not the employers of CE Supervisors.

CE schemes are designed to help those in long-term unemployment gain the confidence and skills necessary to re-enter the workforce.

There are approximately 22,500 participants on 1250 CE schemes in different communities around the country each with a Supervisor who takes care of the day-to-day management of the scheme.

In some cases where there are more than 26 participants on a scheme, there may be an Assistant Supervisor as well. Each CE scheme has a sponsor or multiple sponsor groups who help to oversee the scheme on a voluntary basis.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) oversees CE schemes. They provide financial support (including supervisors’ wages and employer PRSI) and have final say on the approval of new schemes.

A third party, non-profit, subsidiary company is set up to govern each scheme. The DEASP lodges money for wages, training and materials grants into the bank account of this subsidiary company. The voluntary sponsor of the scheme then transfers this funding out of this bank account and into the relevant locations.

The Government is the sole funder of these schemes and these subsidiary companies are essentially used as an extra layer of bank accounts.

Conor Mahon, who is a CE Supervisor in County Galway, describes the DEASP as his “shadow employer”.

He says the DEASP dictate…

“…how much holidays we get, how much sick leave we get… we’re audited by them. Every aspect of [CE] is micromanaged at every level”.

According to Mr. Mahon, even a small donation made by a member of the community who values the work of CE, results in a “hoopla with the department questioning it [demanding a] letter of explanation”.

Ahead of a planned strike in February 2019, a letter was sent to the sponsors of each scheme from Nora Durcan, Principle Officer in the DEASP.

In this letter, Ms. Durcan instructed how the sponsors should manage the schemes during the strike, reminding them that the DEASP will review funding allocated for the scheme “having regard to the industrial action taken”.

At a Dáil debate on January 29, 2019, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed:

“It would be very unusual for a Government to reject a Labour Court recommendation… I am not sure I have ever seen Government bodies doing it”.

Fianna Fáil TD, John Brassil, reminded the Taoiseach of the 2008 Labour Court Recommendation (LRC) advising that the Government provide CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors with pensions.

He also referred to a Private Members’ Bill from 2018 which received a two thirds majority to implement this LCR.

The Taoiseach replied:

In that case, the State is not the employer… but instead funds, or is the major funder of the body that employs the people.”

The Government’s stance on this matter is that the employer of the CE Supervisors should make provisions for a pension for them. Yet, the DEASP pays employer PRSI for CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors.

The Taoiseach is also manipulating the facts.

The subsidiary companies who govern each CE scheme are solely funded by the Government. Unless the Government makes provisions for extra funding for pension schemes, this matter will remain unresolved.

Minister for Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohoe, expressed his admiration for the Labour Court at a Dáil debate in March 2017.

He claimed that the Labour Court and Workplace Relations Commission handle thousands of issues each year and consequently “In order to ensure their continued role in matters of deep importance, it is crucial that the Government supports them”.

His opinion seems to differ in this case. Minister Donohoe claims that if the Government was to honour LCR 19293, the incurred costs due to other groups requesting the same rights, would be in the region of €400 million.

According to Mr Mahon, this scoping document includes…

“…every person or entity that gets funding from the Government [or] that does something beneficial for the community.”

Mr. Mahon adds:

“We have the LCR that none of the rest of them have”. These scare-tactics of Minister Donohoe are based on ‘the worst-case risk scenario’.”

In 2008 when CE schemes were governed by FÁS, a statutory body, €10 million was set aside to fund the provision of a pension scheme for CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors.

With the economic downturn, it was agreed on their behalf that this money would be rerouted into other areas of the country that needed the funds more urgently at the time. Since then, a change in Government saw that this money was never returned.

In 2015, Brendan Howlin, the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, agreed to negotiate on this issue. However, according to Eddie Mullins, the SIPTU Sector Organiser for this case, “this [current] Government has basically back-tracked on it”.

When asked if he had ever seen the Government treat a group of people the way they are treating CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors, he said:

“No, it’s most unusual that they would treat a Labour Court recommendation the way they’re treating it”.

He regards the behaviour of the Government as “absolutely despicable” .

In 2015, at the Lansdowne Road Agreement, it was agreed that a High-Level Forum would be set up to deal with this issue.

On April 24, 2018, three years later, a Dáil debate was held on the subject of CE pension schemes during which Deputy Willie O’Dea of Fianna Fáil described the Forum:

“It’s members must be very high-level and busy because it has only had 5 meetings since its inception”

On that day, CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors from around the country made their way to Dublin for the debate which proved to be a further display of indifference by Government.

As stated by Deputy O’Dea:

these people have been insulted by the Government tonight… because the Ministers responsible, in particular the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, did not have the gumption to come in here and read out the miserable script… for not providing them with their justified claim

Economically, CE Supervisors are suffering. Equal to this is the emotional drain as a result of fighting for their rights and being ignored by the Government for so many years.

Celia Killeney has been a CE Supervisor in Galway for 21 years.Despite being on the same wage for the last 11 years, due to inflation and the rising costs of living, Celia claims she is financially worse-off than she was in 2008.

When asked how being ignored and used by the State has made her feel, she replied “devalued, worthless” and that she feels “it is absolutely disgraceful for a human being to be treated like this”.

A rally organised by SIPTU and FORSA took place outside Leinster House yesterday. Hundreds of CE Supervisors, Assistant Supervisors and supporters took part.

At a press briefing before the rally, it was announced that CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors will engage in five consecutive days of industrial action commencing on the 13th of May 2019.

Bethany Langham is a Galway-born, Dublin-based video and broadcast producer. She is currently doing a part-time masters in journalism and media communications.

Rollingnews

This afternoon.

ESB Head Office, Dublin.

Members of the ESB Retired Staff Association (ESBRSA) protest protesting against a ten-year pension freeze.

Last August, the ESB Retired Staff Association submitted a claim for a 7.7 per cent pension increase, which was rejected.

The National Executive Chairman of the Association is calling for the traditional linking of pensions and employee salaries to be restored.

Tony Collins says pensioners are under represented on committees connected to ESB Defined Benefit Pension Scheme:

The protest involves all 15 Branches of the organisation.

ESB Pensioner Protest Over Decade-Long Pension Freeze (KFM)

Sam Boal/RollingNews

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny will receive a lump sum payment of €378,000 and an annual pension of €126,000 The figures would bring the outgoing Taoiseach’s pension pot to over €2m.

Meanwhile…

On the issue of pensions, we must acknowledge that the average level of public pension in this State is €23,000. By January 1, 2018, anybody earning a pension below €32,400 will see the public service pension reduction eliminated. There are no princes or princesses in our party. We are a party that represents all levels of society, those with and those without.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe in the Dáil last night

Good times.

Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s €2m pension pot ‘cannot be justified at this time’ (Irish Independent)