Workers ‘staring at poverty in old age’

A substantial number of people, especially women, in the private sector have no occupational pension and are “staring at poverty in old age”, the annual conference of the country’s second biggest union, Fórsa, heard this morning.

The union’s national secretary Billy Hannigan said that since the 1990s, a large number of employers including very profitable companies “have simply walked away from their pension responsibilities”.

Fórsa welcomed Government proposals for a new three-way pension scheme for workers involving the employee, the employer, and the State — but said employers must pay more.

Delegates were told 60% of private sector workers currently have “no occupational pension at all”.

Women had the lowest of all pension cover and were facing poverty in old age, said Mr Hannigan.

“We welcomed the proposed system, which would provide mandatory pension entitlements for all workers wherever they are employed. But employer contribution has to be twice that of the worker,” said Mr Hannigan.

Auto opt-out proposals, detailed in the Government paper last February, had to guard against employers “encouraging staff to opt-out in order to minimise their own contributions,” he said.

Mr Hannigan also warned against shutting down existing pension schemes.

“The purpose of the new scheme is to provide pension cover for those who have none, not to disimprove existing pension cover for people who have it.”

He also called for the scheme to be administered by the Revenue Commissioners “to avoid excessive fees from private pension providers”.

Meanwhile, the union welcomed the publication yesterday of the special needs assistant (SNA) allocations for the 2018/2019 school year.

The union, which represents 8,500 SNAs nationwide said it welcomed both the allocation of 940 additional SNA posts and the timely publication of the allocations.

Deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan said: “Above all, we’re very pleased that SNAs now have certainty about the next academic year.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge that the minister stuck to his word on the timing of the allocations, and I trust this marks a new approach for the future.”

These developments follow a 2018 ballot for industrial action by Fórsa SNA members.

The ballot followed four successive years where SNA allocations were published very late.

In 2017, the allocations weren’t published until July, which meant that hundreds of SNAs finished the school year without knowing if they would have a job the following September.

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