Right Of Audience For Pensioners


The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament notes that the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton T.D. on behalf of the government has published the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill (No 2) and that it will be befere Seanad Eireann tomorrow Tuesday 26th November. The Bill will change the  Priority Order for Defined Benefit Schemes as well as granting Trustees of Schemes increased powers to restructure schemes which will greatly impact on those workers who are already on pension.

The ISCP and its members are concerned that once again the issue of the RIGHT OF AUDIENCE FOR PENSIONERS is not being dealt with in this Bill

It is worth reiterating that pensioners are former workers who are now in receipt of a benefit for which they and their employer paid during their working lives. Employers asserted that pension payments and sponsorship of pension schemes was a benefit to an employee and was a valid part of remuneration. Membership of schemes was compulsory and all were members, whether active, deferred or members in receipt of pensions

Prior to the early 1970s pensioners had a right of audience to the Industrial Relations Machinery of the State. Following a successful pensioner case the then Minister for Labour Affairs changed the law the result of which is that pensioners have no redress mechanism available to them. When this matter was raised by the ISCP with government the response was

“since pensions in payment could not be reduced there was no need for such access”

Mairead Hayes CEO of the ISCP said

this reason is no longer valid as the position has changed dramatically as pensions in payment have been reduced because of the imposition of the Stamp Duty Pension Levy. Now with the introduction of this legislation there is a prospect that they will be further drastically reduced.

Continuing she said

If the government are serious about FAIRNESS + intergenerational Equality then they must start by giving pensioners a right of audience.

In many schemes Pensioners and or their associations are denied access to Scheme Trustees. This is regrettable at a time when the power of Trustees is being greatly increased. We are concerned that “the option to restructure a scheme”  outside the Double and Single Insolvency process confer powers on Trustees to act in a manner which might not be open and transparent to all of the stakeholders of a scheme. We ask the Minister to ensure that such powers are counterbalances, as a quid pro quo, by the recognition of pensioners active participants in all the processes which affect their scheme.  There must be fairness and transparency for all involved with equal rights to information, accountability up to and including access to the State Industrial Relations Machinery.