Waterford Crystal case has implications for many, says Taoiseach
Workers might have to wait until at least 2016 for their pensions, Halligan warns
Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “The matter is before the High Court now, and I cannot involve myself in a parallel negotiating position.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The court will determine the percentage of their pensions workers are entitled to.
Mr Halligan called on the State’s legal team to meet the workers’ legal and union representatives and seek an agreement ahead of a High Court date, which would also avoid potential legal costs of millions to the taxpayer.
He said if the case went all the way to the Supreme Court the 1,500 workers, many of whom were on the brink of poverty, would have to wait until at least 2016 for payment.
However, the Taoiseach said the State needed clarification on this case because the matters “have general application for many thousands of other workers”.
Mr Halligan said the ruling of the European Court of Justice, on the case taken by the workers’ union Unite, obliged the State to protect the pension rights of Waterford Crystal workers.
The company closed down in 2009 and workers were “further kicked into the ground when they were told their pensions were effectively wiped out”.
He said it was “appalling and outrageous that former taoisigh, ministers and bankers were on huge pensions” but these workers were being forced into the High and possibly Supreme Court.
Hundreds of cases are settled out of court each year and going through the court procedure could cost the taxpayer millions. He said an agreement could be reached with Unite without incurring such costs.
Mr Kenny said some were “well aware of what might or might not result from these negotiations” but “I do not want to give any false hope”.
There was no point having a meeting when there was a “parallel course” going through the courts.