Up to 500 community employment scheme supervisors are expected to go on strike today amid demands for access to enhanced pension rights.
The strike, organised by SIPTU and Forsa members, will see demonstrations at Intreo offices around the country and a central protest at the Department of Finance in Dublin, held at midday.
Speaking last week, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Patricia King said it was "an outrage that these workers do not have access to an employer sponsored occupational pension scheme".
“The existence of such a scheme is one of the things that marks out decent employers from those who wish to exploit ordinary working people. The fact that workers in these State-sponsored schemes are denied this basic entitlement is not acceptable.”
Siptu sector organiser Eddie Mullins told The Irish Times that the union was asking the government to make good on a 2008 labour court recommendation which would have provided an occupational pension for the supervisors.
Mr Mullins said that the pension scheme was stalled during the recession, but that Siptu felt progress was being made on the issue prior to the election of the Fine Gael led minority government. “The change in government put everything on the back burner,” he said.
The union estimates that around 50 supervisors have retired every year since 2008, while around 1,250 are currently working. Some of this number have access to a local authority pension scheme if they are directly employed by these bodies, he said.
Mr Mullins said that a commitment of between €5 million and €6 million from the government would fund pensions for uncovered community employment supervisors. “We’re not going to get a gilt edged pension scheme, but there should be enough,” he said.
Siptu has accused the government of trying to intimidate workers in the run up to today’s strike. The union says that letter sent by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection was a veiled threat as it raised the prospect of funding allocations being reviewed following strikes.
A copy of one of the letters seen by The Irish Times stated that "your Community Development Officer (CDO) will be in touch with you to establish which supervisors are withdrawing their labour". It continued: "The CDO will also review the funding allocated to your organisation having regard to the industrial action taken".
A spokesman for Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said that she had “no intention of reducing any funding to schemes as a result of the action. Any indication as suggested in the letter is not, and will not, be supported by her”.