Trainers in North unaware of life cover arrangement
Turf Club says full-time stable staff in North covered by life assurance since 2012
The Turf Club has said that 60 full-time stable staff in the North of Ireland are covered as part of a life assurance scheme since 2012.
That insurance cover is part of the racing industry’s old pension fund wound up in 2010, but which has controversially never provided pension benefits to employees in the North.
However, the stable employees’ scheme was both a pension and a death benefit plan, and two years after the fund was wound up the scheme’s management committee moved to include employees in the North under its life assurance element.
Documents seen by The Irish Times show that Irish Life Assurance indicated in 2012 that “there was no reason why they could not include N Ireland employees in the life assurance scheme”.
The same documents record that “the committee agreed that employees of N Ireland licensed trainers should now be included in the life assurance scheme”.
The Turf Club’s chief executive Denis Egan said on Monday that after the management committee meeting which considered the matter in 2012, steps were immediately taken to cover full-time employees in the North with life assurance. “All full-time ‘A’ card holders have been covered,” said Mr Egan.
Turf Club “A” cards are issued to full-time stable employees throughout Ireland, and Mr Egan said there were 60 such card-holders currently registered in the North.
There have been no claims on that death benefit policy since 2012, and Mr Egan added: “We are not aware that anyone has died. No one has notified us of a death.”
However, a number of trainers in the North have said they were unaware of these life assurance arrangements in place for the last five years.
“I didn’t know that, and I imagine it will be news to everyone else too,” said Co Tyrone-based Mervyn Torrens.
Confirmation that full-time northern employees have been covered for life assurance since 2012 will also provoke questions about why they were not before that, and other queries as to why industry pension benefits have never been given stable staff in the North.
Road-show exhibitions for a proposed new non-contributory pension scheme for full-time racing staff is being rolled out countrywide this week, and is planned to include workers in the North as well as in the Republic.
The new fund will be financed by deductions from trainers’ prizemoney just as the old scheme was. Such deductions have continued to be taken since 2010, and are estimated to currently amount to almost €4 million.
Although the old scheme was wound up in 2010, some assets were retained to cover pension entitlements that had yet to be claimed. At one point in 2012 those assets were estimated at €1.36 million in a Mercer Pensions document seen by The Irish Times.
The Turf Club, the Irish Racehorse Trainers’ Association and the Irish Stable Staff Association were involved in the pension scheme’s management committee up to 2012. The fund is now operated by Irish Pensions Trust.
Racing is operated on a 32-county basis in Ireland, and there has been widespread unease among trainers in the North about why jurisdictional issues have been referenced as to why stable staff there have not received the same pension benefits as those in the South.
Unhappiness at how their concerns have been received by the Irish Racehorse Trainers’ Association has led to a proposed new association specifically for trainers in the North, although the IRTA has rejected suggestions of a split.
Confirmation that employees in the North have been covered under one element of racing’s old pension and death benefit scheme since 2012 is likely to add to confusion about why they were not always covered entirely by it.
Mr Egan said on Monday that racing’s original scheme was created in the early 1970s, and it is unclear why employees in the North of Ireland were not entitled to pension or death benefits up to 2012.
“There’s the old scheme which was wound up in 2010 which Northern Ireland employees were not part of: there’s the new scheme which has been set up from 2010 which Northern Ireland employees will be part of and they’ve already been covered since 2012 for life assurance,” Mr Egan said.
Racing’s new pension arrangements will continue to be financed from deductions taken from trainers’ prizemoney no matter where that trainer is based. Similar deductions are taken by British authorities for their own domestic uses when Irish trainers such as Willie Mullins and Aidan O’Brien win there.