Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme
6. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if an extra €7 million has been included in the Dublin Airport Authority funding of the Irish airlines superannuation scheme; and if this was a consequence of the initiative taken by his Department and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation as a result of the expert panel. [16491/15]
It is all a great bit of fun. I hope the Minister is as amused by the plight of the thousands of pensioners who are the victims of the expert panel recommendations regarding the IASS scheme, which were roundly rejected by active members in the DAA and, obviously, overwhelmingly rejected by those who did not have a voice in the process at all, namely, deferred and current pensioners.
We are told that an extra €7 million has been found for DAA pensioners. Where did this come from? How did we get new money now when the Minister said he could not get new money to alleviate the problems of the deferred and current pensioners? If it is not new money, who is losing out?
First, I again make it clear that the IASS and its funding are primarily matters for the trustees, the companies participating in the scheme, the scheme members and the Pensions Authority. At the request of my Department and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the expert panel recently re-engaged with the unions to provide clarification on a number of issues arising from its original report of June 2014. The expert panel issued its final determination on 9 March 2015.
There is no change in the capital sums being provided by the companies as outlined in the expert panel report of June 2014. Specifically, the final determination states that:
The Expert Panel has determined that no alteration to its recommendations in its original Report is necessary. In effect this means that the benefits described in that Report continue to apply as a minimum. The Expert Panel has established some scope to address the redistribution of part of the capital sum recommended for active members so as to address concerns raised and to enhance the position of those who are: (i) closest to retirement and (ii) most impacted by the contribution rates applicable to the lower paid.I was pleased to note the very positive outcome of the recent ballot in DAA-Shannon Airport. As a result, the IASS issues can be resolved once and for all and staff in Aer Lingus, DAA and Shannon Airport Authority will finally have clarity and certainty about their future pension arrangements. I hope this sentiment is shared by the Deputy.
It is some fairytale for the real lives of the deferred pensioners and those who are currently on a pension. The Minister knows that since the beginning of January, €2 million has been taken out of the pockets of retired staff members in that airport pension scheme. This is income that should have been for them but is not there. This is a severe loss for those people. They do not accept that this is the case. Pensioners will be protesting at the AGM of Aer Lingus tomorrow. As bad as the situation at Aer Lingus is, the situation facing DAA workers is even worse because of the actuarial calculations there.
The Minister tries to wash his hands and say it has nothing to do with him. It has everything to do with him because of the way he signed the commencement order and allowed these cuts to take place under previous changes to pension legislation. It is grossly unfair when people have been excluded from the process. People want to know why it is fair for one group of workers to take a hit like that while no pilot has had their pension reduced or had the determination of their defined benefit scheme changed in any way. How in God's name could this be just?
As part of this process, both companies contributed €260 million to the resolution of this matter. A total of €190.7 million came from Aer Lingus while €72 million came from the DAA. Out of the €260 million, €60 million went into dealing with matters raised by deferees. This was an increase of €20 million as a result of the expert panel process.
The Deputy asked me whether additional funding had been provided as a result of the latest part of the process and referred to €7 million. The answer is that new money was not found. I am not familiar with where the figure of €7 million comes from but perhaps the Deputy might give the background to it. What I do know is that the expert panel report and determination did refer to a figure of up to €5 million for transition measures for the airport fire and police service and €0.85 million for dealing with the resolution of the ARSSS fund. I have always said that I appreciate and have first-hand experience of the huge anguish and worry being caused by this matter but if I had not made the decision I made, an entire fund could have been plunged into huge risk.
The Minister has clearly confirmed that there is no extra money, which means some of the existing active members will take a hit at the expense of others. I ask the Minister not to repeat the statement he made about the €260 million which I have previously had to ask him to correct. Can he make it clear that no extra funding was made available for the IASS scheme? It is a slight difference but it means the world of difference because it means that those people on a pension got nothing. The decisions were made without their consent or engagement. It has already cost them €2 million. It has been estimated that €175 million will be paid by those people to allow that fund to meet its minimum funding standard. This is the reason why hundreds of pensioners are taking legal action against the Government and have written to the Office of the Attorney General to sue the Government for financial losses because of their reasonable expectation that they could enjoy their retirement.
Given that the Government is launching a campaign for equality relating to marriage equality, and correctly so, where is the equality given that no pilots have had to take a hit because the company has engaged with them yet the Government thinks it is okay for ordinary clerical and cabin crew and manual workers to see their retirement incomes devastated in their latter years?
One of the great strengths of the way the marriage equality campaign has been handled by everybody involved is the great attempt by those of us advocating for a "Yes" vote not to politicise it or bring party political matters into it.
I regret the way the Deputy has sought to integrate matters which are entirely different and separate. Although the Deputy has asked me not to repeat facts, it is a fact that additional money was made available by companies to deal with the issue. Given that I came to the issue at the latter phase, I personally pressed both companies to see if more funding could be made available. However, it could not be. Earlier, the Deputy asked me if an additional €7 million had been found to deal with the matter, and I said the answer was " No".