State ‘dragging heels’ on Crystal workers’ pensions

The Department of Social Protection has been urged to stop dragging its heels over the Waterford Crystal workers pension row, after it emerged 30 of the firm’s ex-employees have died without any resolution.

State ‘dragging heels’ on Crystal workers’ pensions

Fine Gael TD John Deasy issued the call for action during the latest Dáil Public Accounts Committee meeting on Thursday.

Speaking to Department of Social Protection secretary general Niamh O Donoghue, the Waterford TD said State bodies have failed to adequately address a situation that has dragged on for five years.

Underlining the need to bring the matter to a conclusion as soon as possible, he said 30 of the company’s former workers have passed away without any conclusion being made.

A total of 1,500 workers at Waterford Crystal lost their jobs when the firm collapsed in 2009. They were told their pension scheme was so poorly funded they should only expect to receive 18%-28% of planned income from it.

The issue left many older ex-employees in dire financial circumstances over the past five years, with some struggling to find other work to sustain them while the case went through the courts.

During a European Court of Justice case against the State last year, employee representatives won the right to compensation over the matter, with the level of money involved due to be decided by the High Court in the autumn.

However, Mr Deasy said the issue has already been delayed for too long and warned that the victims are effectively being failed again.

“I understand the economic issue out there and the fact the Government has an enormous issue out there with under-performing pension funds, but the European Court has ruled and there needs to be greater urgency on this,” he told the Irish Examiner last night.

Mr Deasy added that he hoped the issue was not being further delayed in order to ensure the State does not have another significant bill to pay until the economy has fully overcome the recession.

Correspondence which was leaked in March showed that government departments may be willing to provide affected former Waterford Crystal workers with half of their pension entitlements on the condition that all sign up to the deal.

The proposal, which would cost the taxpayer an estimated €100m, does not include individuals’ State pensions, which would be paid in addition to the figure.

Regional secretary for the Unite union Jimmy Kelly has previously said the offer is not enough for affected workers, pointing to an example where the British government lost a similar European Court case and ultimately had to pay out 90% of the lost pensions.

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