Proposed law to give retirees a say in pension disputes to be debated in the Dáil

Move follows years of lobbying by former employees

Tony Collins, chairman of the national executive of the ESB Retired Staff Association, speaking at  a protest outside Leinster House in 2010. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Tony Collins, chairman of the national executive of the ESB Retired Staff Association, speaking at a protest outside Leinster House in 2010. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Proposed legislation that would see tens of thousands of retired workers given a voice in pension disputes for the first time is to be debated in the Dáil this week.

The move follows years of  lobbying by former employees of the ESB, RTÉ, Bord na Móna, civil service unions and others, to have some say when changes are introduced to their pension schemes.

Representatives are to gather outside Leinster House on Tuesday under the banner “Retired Workers are not Retired Voters”.*

Current laws prevent retirees from involvement in pension scheme negotiations and they are limited in their ability to take concerns to the Workplace Relations Committee (WRC). Representative groups have tried and failed to air past grievances with the Equality Tribunal, the Ombudsman, through industrial relations procedures and with trustees of funds.

The Industrial Relations (Provisions in Respect of Pension Entitlements of Retired Workers) Bill 2021, introduced by People Before Profit, would guarantee one position on boards of pension trustees to retired-worker representatives.

The Bill will be debated on Wednesday during private members time.

A memorandum attached to it explains that it came about in “response to a number of cases where retired scheme members found that fundamental and far-reaching changes were proposed to their schemes but their ability to participate in and affect the discussion around these changes were limited”.

Payment freeze

Retired ESB workers have long argued that the terms of a 2010 pension agreement negotiated between management and unions, but without their input, effectively imposed a freeze in payment increases that continues now.

“When you are working you have a voice through your trade union but when you retire, you lose that voice,” said Tony Collins, chairman of the national executive of the ESB Retired Staff Association, for whom an open door to the WRC would represent a major breakthrough.

The Bill would give rights to retired workers’ associations to be consulted when talks between unions and employers may have direct effects on their pensions.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said there was to date some support behind the legislation, but that they were eager to progress it to committee stage where amendments could be made.

“As retried workers they very much operate as a collective and they are looking for some sort of recognition for the [potential] restoration of their pensions,” Ms Smith said.

“There are [also] a lot of retired workers watching this who have not got very well organised associations.”

*This article was amended on June 28th, 2021.