CRC staff vote overwhelmingly for industrial action

Union members back potential strikes following closure of pension scheme

Staff at the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC)in Dublin have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in protest at the closure of their pension scheme.

Members of the trade union Impact voted by 93 per cent to 7 to back industrial action up to and including strike action as part of the dispute over their pensions.

In May, the board of the CRC unilaterally decided to cease making further contributions to the private pension scheme in place for about 150 serving and retired employees in the organisation.

This followed actuarial advice that the scheme would require “significant additional funding”.

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The CRC said the deficit in the scheme had grown by €2 million in the first quarter of this year.

The CRC this week said between 2008 and 2011 about €6.3 million had been invested in additional funding into the the defined-benefit scheme including, controversially, €3 million provided as a loan from its fundraising arm.

The board and management at the CRC are now seeking the Government to permit staff in the private pension scheme to access a public service scheme.

The CRC said its preferred option would be for the staff affected to be allowed to access a scheme created for new public service personnel recruited after early 2013.

It said it was in talks with the Department of Health and HSE to try bring this about. However this would involve a change in legislation.

Alternatively it said it would look at establishing a defined contribution scheme, which would not have a guarantees levels of income in retirement, for the employees concerned.

Impact said when the ballot commenced a number of weeks ago that industrial action seemed “inevitable” unless agreement could be reached with management on the introduction of new arrangements equivalent to those previously in place.

Impact said it wanted to carry out its own actuarial assessment of the pension fund and test the legal validity of the closure of the scheme.

However, it said management had not agreed to this proposal.

The CRC said it only had two sources of funding: its State allocation and public donations.

It said it was not prepared to use donations to deal with the pension deficit.

It also said that since 2011 it had been paying an employer contribution of 25 per cent into the scheme. Staff made contributions of 10 per cent.

The CRC argued that the scheme provided a greater level of benefits than those set out in a public service pension scheme.

This included income continuance cover up to 75 per cent of salary.

Staff complained strongly that the decision by the board to cease making contributions to the pension scheme was taken without any consultation.

The CRC maintained its professional advice was that the scheme trustees could present a demand notice at any time seeking the payment of potentially large sums.

“The risk this presented to the CRC organisationally and to the ongoing ability of the CRC to provide services resulted in the necessity that all correspondence on the issue be treated at the highest levels of confidentiality.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent