Tag Archives: Pensions

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)

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From top: Denis O’Brien, Noel Rock.

In yesterday’s Sunday Business Post.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock wrote a column about Independent News and Media (INM) and its pension cuts – some of which will amount to 70% – describing the company’s moves as “appalling”.

He also referred to the pockets of INM’s biggest shareholder, Denis O’Brien, without naming him.

Mr Rock wrote:

“… But what shifts it from appalling to repugnant is that INM is a massively profitable company, in large part because workers agreed to write down the value of their pensions by 40 per cent in 2013.

“INM announced some months ago that it made a profit of €37 million in 2015. It will have a Euromillions Jackpot figure of €87 million in pure cash burning a hole in its corporate pockets by the end of this month.

“…Sadly, and wrongly, this is not illegal in Ireland. It is in Britain.

“…While Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar is investigating the possibility of intervening in the forthcoming High Court hearing on the capital restructuring of INM and asking the court to consider appropriateness of capital restructuring when it’s closing this pension scheme, it’s certainly worth asking if a “wait and see” approach is good enough, or whether we need to directly intervene.

“…[INM shareholders] also benefited when banks, including the state-owned AIB as well as Bank of Ireland, wrote off almost €140 million in INM debt. These are banks that we bailed out.

“So every single person in Ireland was involved in the indirect bailout of INM. We wrote off their debts, and they crushed their own pensioners to the tune of two-fifths of their entitlement.

We didn’t take that hit as a society so that, three years later, the company would come back, throw its pensioners under a proverbial bus, and suck all the money out of the company for the shareholders we, effectively, did a deal with.

Nor did we do it so that the company could use the cash it is taking off pensioners and transfer it directly into the pockets of its largest shareholder, by buying Newstalk or any other asset he happens to have.”

Yikes.

Noel Rock: Why the INM pension scandal should concern and anger us all (Sunday Business Post)

Rollingnews

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Protest outside the INM egm, Alexander Hotel, Dublin 2 on Monday

We have come to a dividend in the road.

David Wall writes:

As the Christmas approaches the Gardaí have issued a well-timed reminder to be vigilant about theft. Key times for shoplifting and bag snatching are identified as being afternoons on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

This time of year is busy: Christmas parties, Christmas shopping general goodwill and merriment doesn’t come cheap so we do need to be careful with our possessions.

What the Gardaí did not give a warning about was pension snatching. Understandably so, because this is not illegal; morally reprehensible but not illegal. What makes it worse is the reasoning behind the theft: dividends.

These pensions are not being abused to save a flagging business, nor are they simply gone. No, instead they are being used to pay dividends. To create a payment that is unnecessary. Who the share-holders are is interesting, but irrelevant. What matters is the action they are taking.

Interestingly, Leo Varadkar has spoken to the Attorney General with regard to this but little has come of it yet. Is this Leo’s chance to ride in on his steed and save the day, just in time for Enda to retire?

But Varadkar’s heroic actions shouldn’t be needed. Why are the board members of INM allowed to steal from a pension pot that was already agreed? They don’t have to offer the defined benefit scheme to new entrants as their business model evolves, however surely there is a moral obligation to honour such a longstanding agreement.

This is an opportunity for the men and women who run our country to take a positive strong stance and actually take a strong role in helping the people they represent.

The government could finally take affirmative action against white collar crime rather than setting up toothless, costly inquiries. Now is the time for the government to show that democracy works and that the government can and will work for the majority.

I commend Leo Varadkar for taking the public step of discussing this with the Attorney General, I only hope that this is not a fruitless discussion.

David Wall is a 31-year-old ‘sheet reader.

Previously: Worse Than Murphy

Rollingnews

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RTÉ reports:

The Government has lost a Dáil vote on pension equality legislation proposed by Sinn Féin. The Government’s counter-motion was defeated by 83 votes to 49 after Fianna Fáil voted with Sinn Féin.

The original Sinn Féin motion was put forward by Wicklow TD John Brady.

In it, he calls for an end to the situation whereby people – who have to retire at 65 – have to go on jobseekers’ allowance for a year before getting access to their pension.

He also called for pension equality for women following changes to pension bands and rates in 2012.

The motion can be read here

Govt loses Dáil vote on Sinn Féin legislation (RTE)

Embarrassing pensions motion defeat for Government (Irish Times)

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Further to yesterday’s vote by the board of Independent News and Media to give shareholders a dividend while closing off the company’s pension scheme – and the protest by former and current employers over the same…

This afternoon.

During Order of Business in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny if he found it acceptable that “a solvent, profitable company in this country, can change and close down a defined benefit pension scheme, on a whim – to the detriment of their pensioners and deferred pensioners”?

Readers will note that Mr O’Dea didn’t specifically name Independent News and Media (INM) and neither did Mr Kenny in his reply to Mr O’Dea….

Willie O’Dea: “There’s an implied recognition in the Programme for Government that the pension problem in this country needs to be dealt with. Now, can I ask you: do you find it acceptable that a solvent, profitable company in this country, can change and close down a defined benefit pension scheme, on a whim – to the detriment of their pensioners and deferred pensioners and there is no provision in Irish law to deal with it. Can you tell me when such a provision will be put in place?”

Enda Kenny: “There is no law, no legislation governing this, in respect of Ireland. As you know, there are two defined benefit pensions in respect of the case that you’re probably referring to. In Britain, they have a defined benefit which is based upon levies and only becomes of, only becomes, is only used when the company involved becomes insolvent. The measure, company, we refer to now, is not insolvent. This is a matter in respect of defined benefit contributions that has caused quite a difficultly, a number of difficulties, over the period. Obviously, the last actual certificates filled by defined benefit schemes with the Pensions Authority show that over 60 per cent meet the standard and the remaining schemes had recovery plans. And there is concern that the certificates due in the coming months will, however, show significant deterioration.”

“The operation of a pension scheme is, in the first instance, a matter for the trustees of the particular scheme. The minister met recently with the chairperson of the Pensions Authority. He’s asked the authority to report back to him with an assessment of the current overall position in relation to defined benefit schemes. So he will report to the House when that comes back.”

Meanwhile…

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-15-07-47

Later.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy also raised the matter but did specifically mention INM.

Catherine Murphy: “…Taoiseach, do you now accept that there is a gap in the law that is leaving a group of people, we’re seeing with one company, INM, the Independent newspapers, we’re seeing them – whom have the benefit, mind you, of €130m-plus being written off by AIB and the Bank of Ireland – leaving people who’ve worked in that industry, they’ve deferred their pensions in a lot of cases, leaving them very exposed because of this  gap in the law.”

“There’s an urgency about this and other companies doing exactly the same thing. Taoiseach, do you not see that there is a need for urgent legislation in respect of this gap in the law?”

Kenny: “Well, the point is that, in the UK, there is a pension protection fund which is paid for by levies, but it only comes into use when the company is insolvent and the company you mentioned is not insolvent. Clearly, the…

Murphy: [Inaudible]

Ceann Comhairle: “The Taoiseach, without interruption.”

Kenny: “The minister has met with the chairman of the Pensions Authority. He’s asked him to report back on the issue of defined benefit pensions. The situation that will arise over the coming months and coming years, obviously, we’ll deliberate on that when he, when he has that report back…”

Earlier: ‘You Can’t Take It With You’

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Staff at Independent News and Media are to protest outside a company meeting today over a 70% cut to their pension benefits.

Earlier this month INM announced it would no longer be contributing to the defined benefit pension scheme, which will now have to close.

Separately, the company will today seek shareholder approval for measures that would permit the resumption of dividend payments for shareholders including businessmen Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond, who between them own almost 45% of the company.

In 2013, Independent News and Media restructured its defined benefit pension scheme.

Under that ten-year plan, staff had to accept benefit cuts of around 40%.

But last month INM announced  that it would cease contributions to that scheme citing factors including regulatory funding requirements and falling bond yields.

INM staff set to protest over pension cuts of 70% (RTE)

UPDATE:

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Ingrid Miley tweetz:

Union briefing re: pension cuts at INM gets underway – protest to follow outside EGM at 13.30…

hse

How much?

Ken Foxe, writes:

Nine former senior staff of the Health Service Executive were paid lump sums in excess of €400,000 when they retired from their jobs.

The nine pensioners were among 232 HSE employees who have walked away with golden handshakes worth more than €160,000 over the past six years.

Even at the most conservative estimate, these enormous lump sums have cost the taxpayer €58 million…

The 232 former staff are also entitled to generous pensions, with 16 of them in receipt of annual payments worth between €125,000 and €139,000.

Another 78 are paid at least €100,000-a-year in their pension, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the HSE.

Nine HSE pensionsers received lump sums worth more than €400,000 on retirement while 16 get annual pensions of over €125,000…(more at link below)

Nine HSE pensionsers received lump sums worth more than €400,000 on retirement while 16 get annual pensions of over €125,000 (No Expenses Spared, Ken Foxe)