RTE RETIRED STAFF ASSOCIATION
firstname.lastname@example.org PO Box 12250 Dublin 16
Dear Minister Martin,
Earlier this year, your Department received a submission from me on behalf of the 1,800 members of the RTE Defined Benefit Scheme (RTESA) relating to an application by RTE to amend regulation 36 of the RTE Superannuation Scheme. I received neither an acknowledgement nor response to this submission.
In an attempt to get some transparency I arranged for an FOI request to be made relating to this issue as follows “all communications relating to an application by RTE for a proposed amending regulation (regulation 136) to the RTE superannuation scheme. To include communications between the department and RTE, DPER and New Era and any other third party that has made representations or observations in relation to this request by RTE.”
We received a response to this request denying access to all 26 records under section 29(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 on the basis that this issue is currently under deliberation. Leaving aside the fact that at least 4 of the documents listed and refused are already in the public domain and in our possession, it would be quite extraordinary – and contrary to the public interest – if a State Employer could, in secret collusion with Public Servants, make a decision to take €30m out of a collective employee pension scheme. Not only would this secret process have implications for the 1,800 scheme members in RTE but also the tens of thousands of members of semi- state pensions schemes subject to the similar regulations.
I understand that your Department requested a report from NTMA/NewEra on this issue. This report was delivered to your Department last May. The members of the RTESA whose life pension savings are being reduced substantially by this proposal have been denied access to this report and a subsequent report from NTMA/NewEra in June 2020.
Over one third of all RTESA pensions are for amounts of less than €20,000 per annum. The majority of this group receive less than the Contributory Old Age Pension. RTE pensioners are not entitled to the old age pension as they were contractually prevented from paying the relevant PRSI contributions. They have received no pension increases in the last 12 years, a period in which the State Old Age Pension has increased by 15%!
All we have asked is that whatever arrangement is agreed, a “backstop” would be in place, each year, to ensure that RTE cannot use this proposed rule change to take €1m. out of the pension fund, each year, unless the cost of living increases proposed by the Trustees are approved and paid in the same year. Only last year, on the advice of NTMA/NewERA a paltry 1% pension increase was refused in spite of a proposal by the Scheme Actuary that an increase of 2% was affordable. According to NTMA/NewERA, a pension fund which was judged by them to be unable to fulfil its primary function of paying a pension increase to those who contributed to it, is perfectly able to take on the added burden of what was historically the employer’s cost of potentially €1,000,000 per annum.
You couldn’t make it up!
We are appealing the refusal of our FOI request on the basis that it is contrary to the public interest that deliberations concerning proposed regulation changes to semi-state pension schemes should be concealed from the tens of thousands members of those schemes. Also Section 29 of the FOI Act does not permit refusal of the factual information contained in the 26 documents which were refused in their totality.
In the meantime we are concerned that a decision will be taken based on advice which we have not had an opportunity to respond to and we may be presented with a fait accompli.
This entire matter perfectly captures the preposterous situation that once workers become old and retired, their rights apparently die with them. There are no appeals, no opportunities to question the decisions of faceless experts.
In the interests of transparency, this letter is being circulated to all our members and to all the Semi State retired staff associations.
We would appreciate an immediate response from your Department to this submission and our earlier submission on the 14th of April last.