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Unions ponder 'next steps' over Waterford pension

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  • Unions ponder 'next steps' over Waterford pension

IRELAND - Trade unions are considering their next steps against the Irish government over the fate of Waterford Crystal pension fund, but may still pursue legal action concerning the enactment of EU pension rules.

A deal was agreed earelier this week between Unite the Union, David Carson, partner at Deloitte Ireland and receiver of Waterford Wedgwood, and the new owner KPS, a private equity firm, which will see 176 jobs retained and a payment of €10m divided among those workers who have lost their jobs.

However, Unite noted "there is as yet no resolution to the issue of the Waterford pension", despite parallel discussions with the government about the pension scheme being "badly underfunded" at the time Waterford became insolvent.

The union added while "discussions with government looked promising, up to a point, they've come to nothing".

Unite, in conjunction with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said it may therefore consider action against the Irish government "over its non-compliance with European legislation on pension protection".

Although many countries have some type of protection for pension funds when their sponsoring employers fail, such as the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) in the UK, Ireland has so far refused to establish a similar scheme and Mary Hanafin, minister for social and family affairs, told parliament earlier this month that Ireland was unable to offer such protection. (See earlier IPE article: Irish not in position to offer PPF)

Walter Cullen, Unite regional organiser, said: "The Irish government's failure to implement the EU insolvency directive has resulted in our members losing over two-thirds of the pension benefit which they have contributed to all their working lives.

"We do not intend to allow this to happen. While agreement has been reached with KPS and the receiver, the fight to protect our members' pensions will continue until we get justice for our members," he added.

The union said it was now a case of "drawing breath" before coming back for the next phase, which could "potentially" include "a legal route".

Officials confirmed they would be much happier if the government could be persuaded of the need for the introduction of a pension protection fund, but warned it would take "whatever measures are necessary".

However, as both the introduction of a pension protection fund and legal action could take some considerable time to be completed, the union added it is "acutely aware of both the short-term and long-term needs", and is taking that into account when deciding its next move.

If you have any comments you would like to add to this or any other story, contact Nyree Stewart on + 44 (0)20 7261 4618 or email nyree.stewart@ipe.com

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