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Government must engage with Waterford Crystal Workers on Pension Provision

Today in the Dáil Deputy Patrick Nulty (Dublin West) and Deputy Róisín Shortall (Dublin North West) jointly raised the implications of last month’s European Court of Justice ruling in relation to the court case taken by former Waterford Crystal workers regarding their pension protection. The ruling contained a number of clarifications regarding the transposition of EU Directive 2008/94EC which concerns the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer. The ECJ found in favour of the workers on all the major points that were at issue.

If the Government allows this case to go back to the High Court and the Waterford Crystal workers win the case, there will potentially be a very significant and immediate exposure for the taxpayer in the order of several hundred million euro. It would make much more sense for the Government to negotiate an arrangement to provide for staged payments to meet workers pension requirements.

Deputies Nulty and Shortall said,

“Our principal concern is that the Government should immediately engage with the former Waterford Crystal workers’ representatives to negotiate a fair and just pension settlement.

The actuaries working for the Waterford Crystal workers have calculated that annual payments of initially less than €2.5 million eventually rising to a peak of €18 million in the 2030s would fully reinstate the pensions expected by the Waterford Crystal workers. On the face of it, this approach would seem to make a lot more sense for the Irish taxpayer as well as the Waterford workers. Annual payments represent a more efficient approach than settling for an unknown capital sum through the Courts. Annual payments avoid the need to purchase annuities which are a very expensive way of generating an annual income for life. This approach would also avoid further significant legal fees.

To date, there has been no engagement with the workers by any representative of the Government. This head-in-the-sand-approach potentially exposes the Irish taxpayer to a far higher bill.

On the wider pensions issue, there is an urgent need for workers in other companies, both solvent and insolvent companies, to be adequately protected. Where the employer is solvent, they should be required to stand over the pension commitments that they have made to their workers in the past. Where the employer is insolvent, a safety net is urgently required, as has been implemented in the UK and other jurisdictions. We urge the Government to produce the long-promised legislation to ensure pension protection for workers in defined benefit schemes.”