CIE Pension situation

Irish Times 11th June 2020

CIÉ fails to get agreement on tackling €550m pension deficit

Workers support proposals to restore one plan but shun propositions for another

Thu, Jun 11, 2020, 05:09

Barry O’Halloran

State-owned transport group CIÉ faces a partial setback in efforts to tackle a near €550 million pension shortfall after workers backed proposals to repair one plan, but rejected mooted reforms for another.

The owner of Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail, is seeking to fund a pension deficit that totalled €547 million across two retirement schemes in its 2018 annual report.

Results of two ballots completed this week show that 83 per cent of 3,800 workers accepted proposed changes to the group’s regular wages scheme, which provides for operational employees such as drivers and station staff.

However, 70 per cent of 1,160 staff who are members of the 1951 superannuation scheme, which covers clerical workers and management, voted against proposed changes to that retirement plan.

CIÉ’s unions will write to the trustees of the regular wages scheme to inform them of the vote’s result and will refer the 1951 plan to the Labour Court for consideration.

Ahead of the ballot, members of the 1951 superannuation scheme expressed concerns at proposals to set the minimum retirement age at 60. The maximum under the funding proposals is 66, the State pension age.

CIÉ said yesterday it was disappointed at the outcome of the vote on the proposed changes to the 1951 scheme.

The 1951 scheme continues to fall short of minimun funding standards set in pensions law. Covid-19, which hit demand for public transport and pension assets, has weakened this position further, it is understood.

What happened at the WRC?

CIÉ management and the trade union group, comprising Siptu, Unite, Connect, National Bus and Rail Workers’ Union and the Transport Salaries Staffs’ Association, agreed the funding plans at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Workers voted over recent weeks while the result of both ballots emerged yesterday.

The trade union group said it would not comment further on the 1951 superannuation scheme vote until the Labour Court issues a recommendation. Trade union votes on pension-plan changes establish the workers’ views on the proposals. But retirement scheme trustees ultimately decide on funding changes.

The trustees of both CIÉ schemes will have to submit funding plans to tackle the deficit to the regulator, the Pensions Authority.

Subject to the backing of its trustees, CIÉ hopes that changes to the regular wage scheme can be implemented in coming months. The public transport group has said that a long-term solution to its pension deficit is needed urgently.

CIÉ is responsible for the pension schemes and managing an extensive list of properties including train and bus stations around the Republic.