Employment scheme supervisors may strike over pensions

‘We spend our careers helping the disadvantaged... but when we retire, we become disadvantaged ourselves’

The union said it was in the process of sending a letter to the current Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe about possible strike action. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times

The union said it was in the process of sending a letter to the current Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe about possible strike action. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times

 

The supervisors of community employment schemes across the country are to ballot for strike action if the Government fails to engage with their representatives on the provision of pensions by the end of the month.

A Fórsa trade union conference in Galway was told the 1,250 supervisors had no access to any occupational pension scheme and had been waiting “fruitlessly” for a decade for progress to be made on the issue.

Angela Kirk, the union’s national secretary, said a 2008 Labour Court recommendation, which proposed that an agreed pension scheme should be put in place for the staff, had never been accepted or rejected by successive governments.

She said almost 250 supervisors have retired with no occupational pension since the recommendation was published.

Community employment schemes are designed to assist those in long-term unemployment or those who are disadvantaged to work in their local communities as a stepping stone to regular work.

Currently about 25,000 people are engaged in community employment schemes working in areas such as crèches, meals-on-wheels and in the upkeep of sporting and community facilities.

Community employment scheme supervisors mange such projects on a day-to-day basis.

Asked about the matter, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said: “The employees in question are not public servants and we have no further comment on the matter.”

Paddy Quinn, a community employment supervisor, said the former minister for public expenditure Brendan Howlin had established in a high level forum to look at issues in the voluntary and community sector including the pensions issue in 2015.

He said that after several meetings it appeared “we were being blocked at every turn”.

The conference heard that the forum only convened on four occasions before it broke down last April after making “zero progress”.

Mr Quinn said the union was in the process of sending a letter to the current Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe explaining that if a decision was not forthcoming on the pensions issue by the end of the month “we will have to ballot for industrial action up to and including strike action”.

Carmel Keogh of Fórsa’s community employment supervisors’ branch said: “We spend our careers helping disadvantaged and marginalised people, and the long-term unemployed, to gain work in the local community as a stepping stone to regular employment. But when we retire, we become disadvantaged ourselves. It’s scandalous that three successive Governments have failed to accept and act on a recommendation from the State’s highest industrial relations authority. We can’t, and won’t, wait forever.”