Government in bid to resolve pensions dispute in community employment sector

TDs and senators told Minsters have reached agreement on new proposals

There are more than 1,200 community employment scheme supervisors who oversee about 900 State-funded services ranging from childcare to meals on wheels. File image: by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

There are more than 1,200 community employment scheme supervisors who oversee about 900 State-funded services ranging from childcare to meals on wheels. File image: by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

 

The Government is set to table new proposals to resolve a long -running dispute over access to pensions for hundreds of community employment scheme supervisors.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys informed Government politicians that they had agreed on measures to deal with the issue.

They told Government TDs and senators on Saturday that the Department of Social Protection would provide details to trade unions in the coming days.

The proposal is expected to involve provision to pay gratuities to individuals concerned which would be related to their service since 2008. Some sources have suggested that the amount involved could be up to €30 million.

Sources suggested that in future the issue for community employment supervisors could be addressed as part of a planned pension auto-enrolment scheme.

Community employment scheme supervisors, who support groups involved a range of sporting, community and voluntary activities, had warned they would ballot for strike action if the Government did not table proposals regarding access to pensions by this weekend.

They had previously staged a one-day strike in February 2020, just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

No details on the new proposal to resolve the pensions issue was provided to the Government politicians.

The trade union Siptu said on Saturday that it welcomed “the 11th-hour intervention” in the community employment scheme supervisors’ pension dispute.

Siptu sector organiser Jane Boushell, said: “Our members welcome the news that the Minister (for Public Expenditure) has finally seen the light and is not prepared to force these essential workers down the road of industrial action. The statement of intent from the Minister today absolutely vindicates our campaign for pension justice for CE supervisors. However, the devil is always in the detail.

“A meeting of our national committee is set for Monday (April 19th) to discuss the terms of any potential settlement. The last thing our members wanted was to go on strike.”

There are more than 1,200 community employment scheme supervisors who oversee about 900 State-funded services ranging from childcare to meals on wheels. However, they are not considered to be public service personnel.

In 2008 the Labour Court recommended that the State should put in place arrangements to give them access to an occupational pension scheme.

However, there have been strong concerns within the Government at the potential costs involved in such a move as well as in relation to knock-on implications.

In April 2018 then minister of state at the Department of Public Expenditure Michael D’Arcy said community employment supervisors were employees of private companies and not of the State.

He said it could cost the State up to €188 million a year to pay for pensions for staff in exchequer-funded community and voluntary organisations, as well as a further €318 million for ex gratia lump sums.

However on appointment last summer Mr McGrath and Ms Humphreys indicated that they would look again the issue.