Pensions Authority to seek talks with INM over scheme funds

Independent News and Media plans to end two already-cut defined-benefit schemes

 People take part in the NUJ protest on December 5th over Independent Newspapers pension entitlements, outside the Alexander Hotel. Photograph: Eric Luke

People take part in the NUJ protest on December 5th over Independent Newspapers pension entitlements, outside the Alexander Hotel. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The State’s pensions watchdog plans to seek discussions with Independent News and Media (INM) about the company’s decision to cease payments to its defined-benefit retirement schemes.

INM plans to wind up its two defined-benefit schemes in a move that would impose sharp cuts on pensions already reduced by 40 per cent in 2013.

The Pensions Authority, which regulates companies’ retirement plans, is understood to be seeking a meeting with INM to discuss the newspaper publisher’s proposals to close its schemes.

It is unusual for the regulator to exercise its power to call in a company. The authority did not comment.

Trustees of both schemes met the Pensions’ Authority on Tuesday to seek advice. The meeting followed Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar’s intervention in the dispute.

Breach of contract

It is understood that the trustees have legal advice that INM is in breach of a contract it signed in 2013 with the Pensions’ Authority, which involved a plan to plug the deficits in the schemes over time.

INM has said that it will continue to pay a contribution of €11.1 million a year to pensions up to 2023 and that it never intended to renege on a 2013 agreement with the trustees. It has said that any funding being made under the defined-benefit schemes will continue to be made to the defined-contribution scheme.

Trustees of the two schemes, whose members are almost all deferred pensioners and former employees of INM, have asked the company to contribute €12 million to a replacement defined-contribution scheme to help plug the gap in their pension promise.

The €12 million is about half what INM’s balance sheet would gain from closing the schemes. The company is believed to have made an offer to the trustees at a meeting last Friday that fell short of this figure.