IRELAND – A report by consulting firm Mercer has found that workers in the Irish construction industry are losing out on benefits due to a loophole.

It found that a “significant number” of workers who are classified as self-employed by the Revenue – and thus not eligible for the scheme – are not self-employed in the generally accepted sense.

“Such workers are losing out on benefits under the scheme,” the report stated.

The report into the €563m Construction Federation Operatives Pension Scheme was commissioned by the Pensions Board following concerns over regulatory non-compliance expressed by the Services Industrial Professional & Technical Union.

Mercer said that “within the scope of our review, compliance with the relevant pensions legislation is in generally good order”. It recommended that the Board should deal with CFOPS in the same way as any other scheme.

But the Board noted that responsibility for various aspects of the scheme is distributed across a number of bodies “with no single entity having overall responsibility for compliance enforcement”.

Mercer made a series of recommendations, including the suggestion that of employing “dedicated compliance investigators”. It also said the trustees should consider how to deal with the growing population of deferred members.

According to the report, CFOPS has 177,422 deferreds as at March 2005. The scheme has 7,077 participating firms and 65,129 active members and 6,982 pensioners.

The Board said the 45–page report has now been sent to the government. It added it would “continue to carry out the monitoring and enforcement role which it has in relation to the CFOPS”.

Meanwhile, SIPTU has organised a protest over aviation pensions.

It said: “SIPTU is seriously concerned about the future provision of pensions for its members in Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority.”

It said an actuarial valuation of the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme - covering Aer Lingus and the DAA - found there was an aggregate deficiency of nearly €350m. The “valuation of future contributions is not sufficient to cover the costs of benefits accruing in the future to current active scheme members”.

SIPTU said a subsequent report suggested that in a worse case scenario, the deficiency could be as high as €475m.