A Seanad amendment to ban profitable companies from winding up workers’ pensions schemes has been ruled out of order.
The amendment to the Social Welfare Bill 2016 was due to come before the Seanad today.
However, it is understood that it has been deemed out of order as pensions are not covered under the scope of the Bill.
It comes after Independent News & Media (INM) announced that it would be ending its contributions to the company’s defined benefit pension scheme.
Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins put forward the amendment, which had been co-signed by Labour, Sinn Féin, and non-party senators. Fianna Fáil had also indicated that it would support the amendment to stop profitable companies from ceasing their payments to pensions schemes.
Social Democrats TD, Róisín Shortall, who has already called on the Government to urgently protect INM pensioners and other defined benefit pensioners, said it was within the power of Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to accept the amendment.
“It is completely within the minister’s gift to expand the scope of this bill to include pensions, as the last Government did with the 2014 Social Welfare and Pensions Act,” said Ms Shortall.
“Senator Alice Mary Higgins has now resubmitted this amendment to the Social Welfare Bill 2016, and it is up to the Government to accept this amendment or table one of their own.
“It is a straightforward amendment and would provide the same sort of protection that is available in the UK and other jurisdictions.”
Ms Shortall added that there was cross-party support for the amendment, and if it was passed by the Seanad it could be endorsed by the Dáil within days and become law by Christmas.
“Anything less will leave the INM pensioners high and dry, and just kick the can down the road until the next pension scheme in crisis comes to light.”
Mr Varadkar last week consulted Attorney General Máire Whelan to seek advice on whether he could intervene in a High Court case around the INM pension issue.
“I have asked the Attorney General if I can intervene on behalf of the public interest in this case to essentially ask the courts to do what was done previously in relation to Aer Lingus for example where the company would have to engage and negotiate with the trustees before going ahead with this,” he told RTE.
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