Written answers

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Department of Social Protection

Superannuation Schemes

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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55. To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider the issue of equity in the treatment of deferred members of the Irish airlines superannuation scheme under the 2009 Pensions Act as raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42435/14]

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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While I am aware of the issues arising in relation to this scheme, you will appreciate that it is not appropriate for me to comment on developments relating to a particular pension scheme as these are a matter for the management of the company and the trustees of the pension scheme.

You will be aware that a number of changes were made to the Pensions Act in recent years to assist both the employers and the trustees of defined benefit pension schemes respond to the funding difficulties encountered by many schemes at this time. The Pensions Act was amended in 2009 to broaden the options available to the trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme in any consideration of a restructure of scheme benefits under section 50 of the Act to include the benefits of deferred scheme members and post retirement increases in pension benefits. Prior to the 2009 Act, only the benefits of active scheme members could be considered in a restructure of scheme benefits.

The provisions in section 50 of the Act treats both active and deferred scheme members the same. Both of these categories of scheme members participate in a scheme in a period where pension benefits are being accumulated and it is considered that in the context of the provisions of section 50 of the Pensions Act it is appropriate that they are treated in a similar manner. Pensioner benefits are treated differently than the benefits of active and deferred scheme members though these benefits can also be adjusted following the change included in the Social Welfare and Pensions (No. 2) Act 2013. The changes to this section of the Act in 2009 and again in 2013 were designed to spread the risk of underfunding across all scheme members.

You will appreciate that the legislative provisions in respect of pension savings will vary across jurisdictions. In an EU context, where a pension scheme operates across EU Member States, the employees who are employed in a different Member State (i.e., the host Member State) may be subject to certain provisions (i.e., the social and labour law relevant to the field of occupational pensions) in that Member State which may provide for a different level of protection of pension rights.

The issue of the signing of the Ministerial Order is a matter for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

I am aware of the challenge facing all stakeholders in finding a solution to the significant deficit in this scheme and on the desirability of securing sustainable pension provision for all scheme members. It is not planned to bring forward further changes to the provisions of section 50 of the Pensions Act at this time.

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