CRC pension termination a disgraceful way to treat staff

15 June 2016

I was glad to have an opportunity in the Dail this week, to raise an issue concerning the impact of the decision by the Central Remedial Clinic, CRC, board to terminate the Irish Pensions Trust, IPT, pension with immediate effect for the employees of CRC.

I communicated by letter on 2 June 2016 with the chief executive officer, CEO, the chief financial officer, CFO, the chairperson of the board and the human resources, HR, manager on this issue in a comprehensive fashion on behalf of the employees.

I have not even received the courtesy of an acknowledgement of or a reply to the same correspondence. That is symptomatic of the way the employees, who were and are members of this defined benefit scheme, were treated in recent weeks by their employer.

I do not believe the most right-wing employer would be so dismissive and uncaring and I will not tolerate any body or institution behaving in such a fashion and acting in blatant disregard of the interests of their valuable employees, past and present.

I was motivated by this glaring disregard to wonder aloud who was in place and whose responsibility it was to protect, promote and advocate for the interests of workers when they were members of the IPT scheme.  As I said, the pension scheme was abruptly terminated with immediate effect as and from Wednesday, 18 May 2016 without leave or notice to the relevant staff or any appropriate consultation with the said staff, most of whom have given long years of service.

It is notable that, as far as I am aware, nobody has been admitted into the scheme since 2002 and, therefore, there is a finite and definite number of people involved, with only 47 active members of staff currently in the IPT pension, and about 50 deferred and 50 retired members of the scheme, who have been impacted by this unilateral decision.

What I find disturbing is that the CRC is, for the most part, a publicly funded institution whereby employees are subject to contractual arrangements which set out their terms and conditions of employment.  In any event, in any employment situation at least one month’s notice should be given to the affected personnel whereby any change in their terms and conditions are contemplated.

As I understand it, this scheme has been in existence since 1975.  There was not any question about its viability in 2011 but like all defined benefit, DB, schemes, it did not meet the minimum funding standard required that was introduced.  However, the staff played a very significant role in ensuring its continued viability and sustainability.

In recent years they doubled their contribution from 5% to 10% of their wages, and that was accepted by the Pensions Board in February 2012.

It is pushing matters to say that this decision to close the scheme was taken just prior to the staff being informed. I have no doubt there was a great deal of evaluation and assessment carried out by the professionals involved.  That is why I believe the way the staff were treated is disgraceful.

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