EUROPE - Proposals to breach Irish collective bargaining agreements risk jeopardising the future of pension schemes, the European Association of Paritarian Institutions (AEIP) has argued.

The Brussels-based group warned that undermining the agreements would result in members departing the schemes in large numbers and said it felt a need to head off possible long-term "pensioner poverty".

The organisation was expressing concern with a proposal in the Irish National Recovery Plan, which charts the incumbent governments' budget proposals through 2014 in response to the bailout by the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The AEIP's concern lies with a sub section covering "Removing Barriers to Employment Creation and Disincentives to Work", which includes a proposal "to assist competitiveness and employment growth in the agricultural, catering, construction, and electrical contract sectors".

It seeks to provide more flexible labour conditions, thereby throwing into doubt the current status of Irish collective agreements.

The AEIP warned: "If there is a breach of the collective agreements, the mandatory occupation pension schemes set up by these agreements would be seriously jeopardised."

"More in particular," it continues, "if the obligation to pay contributions into these pension schemes were to be removed, several of thousands of employees and workers would quit them".

As a result, these workers, including of the construction sector, would be left without an occupations pensions at retirement. This in turn would run a high risk of "pensioner poverty […] in the long term".

The AEIP's response follows a lobbying from its Irish member, the Construction Workers Pension Scheme (CWPS), as Irish authorities - notably the Ministry for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation - are expected to review the proposals soon.

Earlier this month, Mary Hanafin, minister for enterprise trade and innovation, announced that the Government had also established an independent review of the framework of statutory wage setting mechanisms. These are known as Employment Regulation Orders (ERO) and the Registered Employment Agreement (REA).