Packard pension fund release likely


TRUSTEES of the Packard Electric pension fund are meeting this morning to decide if they can release £1.5 million in redundancy payments to 800 former company employees.

If the funds are released, it would mean amounts ranging from £1,000 to £3,500. The workforce received payments of £6,000 to £20,000 after the plant closed last June.

However, even if the funds are released today, it may not be possible to make payments before Christmas. Final approval must also be given by the remaining directors of Packard's Irish subsidiary. These include the company's managing director for its European operations, Mr Carlos Ferreira, who is currently in Portugal.

It is understood that the caretaker staff at Packard's plant in Tallaght, Co Dublin, worked through last weekend to prepare cheques. These can be sent out as soon as final approval is received. Informed sources were optimistic yesterday that legal problems over the payment would be resolved this morning.

The agreement to release £1.5 million from the pension fund was taken in principle last June. At that time, the main unions representing the workforce, SIPTU and the ATGWU were in dispute with the company over the size of the redundancy package.

The company was offering five weeks pay for each year of service, including statutory entitlements. The Labour Court recommended that payment of statutory entitlements, plus outstanding pay rises under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, should be paid in addition to the five weeks.

The company initially rejected the Labour Court formula, which added 15 per cent to the overall cost. Following the intervention of the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Pat Rabbitte, Packard put up another $500,000 (£303,000) and agreed to allow surplus funds in the company's Irish pension trust to be used to top up the package.

It was thought it would only take a few weeks to amend the pension-fund provisions, but it has proved impossible so far for the trustees and the company to agree a new text.

However, the European management is understood to have accepted new proposals put forward by the trustees earlier this month, subject to some amendments, which will be discussed today. If those amendments prove acceptable, the trustees could authorise the release of the funds today.