Aer Lingus has accused Siptu officials of using "undue influence" to convince the trustees of the airline's new pension scheme to recruit Merrion Investment Managers or Standard Life to manage the fund.
The carrier has established a new defined contribution pension scheme for staff as part of a deal to resolve a row over a €750 million shortfall in the old Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS).
Its human resources director, Brian Bowden, wrote recently to Siptu general president, Jack O'Connor, saying that the union's national pension adviser, Dermot O'Loughlin, had written to the scheme's trustees, advocating that "specific providers" be used to manage the new fund.
While he does not name the fund managers, they are known to be Merrion and Standard Life, both of which were identified by a Siptu committee as the best candidates to run the new pension plan.
Mr Bowden further says that Siptu's nominee to the trustee board, Dominic Harris, also wrote critical letters to the board and chairman, Paul Kelly, pressing them to favour "a named provider".
“We understand that these letters were sent in soft copy format and that the properties of each file show that the author and last editor in each case was in fact Mr O’Loughlin,” Mr Bowden says.
He warns that direct criticism of the trustees’ chairman raises concerns as “it could be seen as an attempt to unduly influence the board of the corporate trustee”.
Mr Bowden also argues that the letters purporting to be from Mr Harris, but apparently written by Mr O’Loughlin, raise serious concerns about the ability of the Siptu nominee to exercise independent judgement and to discharge his duties as a director.
Mr O’Loughlin confirmed yesterday that he wrote to the board, suggesting Merrion and Standard Life as Siptu’s preferred pension providers, but neither he nor Mr Harris actually favoured them or advocated for them.
He explained that Siptu’s penions committee had chosen the two following research that began in 2011 with a list of 60 possible candidates. Members of the committee ultimately chose Merrion and Standard from a shortlist of six on the basis of their investment approach.
“I have asked the trustee board to look at them and I have sent them letters on behalf of the committee,” he said. He stressed that he had no direct role in choosing either fund manager.
Mr O’Loughlin explained that he appeared as the author and editor of the Siptu nominee’s letters simply because Mr Harris used his computer to write them. “The computers in our office are used by all of us,” he said.