CIÉ pension fund shortfall exceeds €450m, Oireachtas committee hears

State transport group owes schemes hundreds of millions of euro, staff claim

Siptu official Greg Ennis said CIÉ could owe “hundreds of millions of euro in unpaid contributions to its two defined-benefit pension schemes from 2009 to date”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Siptu official Greg Ennis said CIÉ could owe “hundreds of millions of euro in unpaid contributions to its two defined-benefit pension schemes from 2009 to date”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Workers claim State public transport group CIÉ owes hundreds of millions of euro in unpaid contributions to its two pension schemes, TDs and senators heard on Wednesday.

CIÉ’s two staff pension schemes have a shortfall of €459 million between them, the group’s acting chief operating officer, Ronan Gill, told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport.

At the same hearing, Siptu official Greg Ennis said a 2009 document showed that at the time, CIÉ’s actuaries advised that the group needed to put between €11 million and €26 million extra into the schemes to ensure their solvency.

Mr Ennis said CIÉ did not make this contribution. As a result he argued that the company could owe “hundreds of millions of euro in unpaid contributions to its two defined-benefit pension schemes from 2009 to date”.

He added that the group needed to explain why it had not disclosed the pensions document to the current board, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and its trade unions.

CIÉ’s statutorily-based schemes support about 16,700 retired public transport workers. Current staff contribute to the funds.

Scheme changes

The document acknowledges that changes to CIÉ’s pension schemes in 1994 benefited the group more than the members and warns that workers would expect the group to deliver if the recession hit returns. It warns that the problem could lead to industrial action.

“However, the bigger problem may come from a referral of the issue to the law courts,” the paper says. It adds that in this situation, the board’s “intentions and commitments given” could emerge.

That paragraph prompted Mr Ennis to suggest that the board was attempting to hide the full picture from staff at the time.

Mr Gill, said the information Mr Ennis highlighted was a section of a position paper, not a complete document.

According to the group, the actuaries based their calculations on an assumption that pay in CIÉ’s group companies, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail, would increase.

However, its companies froze pay in 2009 as the recession began to bite. CIÉ’s director of human resources, Declan Carlyle, noted that at the time, passenger revenues were declining.

He pointed out that CIÉ had given its trade union group and worker directors “volumes” of documents relating to the problems facing the pension scheme.

CIÉ agreed to enter talks with the unions on its pension schemes at the WRC. The company also pledged to pay for independent legal advice for the trade union group.