Written answers

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Community Employment Schemes

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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104. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the community sector high level forum last met; the plans there are for it to meet again to resolve the ongoing issues it was set up to examine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13696/20]

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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This issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

The matter was the subject of extensive discussion at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to both costs and precedent in the context of the wider Community and Voluntary sector.  These discussions provided a clear understanding to each of the parties of their respective positions in relation to this matter and the formal engagement process between the parties was accordingly concluded on this basis. The membership of this Forum includes public service management and union representatives.

It will be appreciated that the implications arising from this claim  extend well beyond the CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors cadre and impact across the entire Community and Voluntary sector. It is accordingly appropriate that the wider sector implications should be fully taken into account in considering the cost implications arising from this  issue.

Taking this important consideration into account it is accordingly the position that a  detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues involved.

The scoping exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost exposure for the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain, were consequential demands to be made to fund employer pension contributions for all similar State funded Community and Voluntary organisations whose employees are in a similar position to the Community Employment scheme supervisors.  This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension for those imminently retiring, as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, give rise to a further Exchequer cost exposure of up to €318 million.

To fund an employer pension contribution for CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors alone would cost the State an estimated €6m per annum, excluding any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payments, estimated at a further €19.2m before administration/implementation costs.

While CE supervisors and assistant supervisors represent only a very small part of the wider community and voluntary sector, any explicit provision of State funding for such a scheme in respect of those employees would inevitably give rise to claims for similar schemes and funding provision on the part of those  many thousands of workers in the broader sector.  My Department has to have regard to the full potential Exchequer exposure associated with setting such a precedent.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and accordingly it is not for the State to provide funding for occupational pension scheme provision.

As a newly appointed Minister, I intend to give careful consideration to this issue and I will engage directly with the relevant stakeholders in the period ahead. 


Pauline Grogan
Posted on 2 Jul 2020 10:40 pm (Report this comment)

Minister McGrath below is a copy of your speech from The Community Employment Pension Scheme: Motion [Private Members] on the 24th April 2018, when you spoke in support of our claim for a Gratuity payment.

It bears no resemblance to the answer you gave today. In fact it’s a complete contradiction.

Read it and hang your head in shame.

Deputy Michael McGrath
I thank my colleagues, Deputies O'Dea, Butler and Calleary, for their consistent work on the issue. I acknowledge and thank all those supervisors and assistant supervisors in attendance for tonight's debate.
In many respects they are tired of being told they are great and how good a job they are doing in their communities. They want action and they want movement on this issue. For all of the other Opposition Deputies who have used this debate as a platform for attacking Fianna Fáil, I would remind them this is a debate brought about by Fianna Fáil tabling this Private Members' motion with a view to bringing about a solution to this issue.
As has been said, time is not on the side of many of the supervisors and assistant supervisors. Some 250 have already retired and some have gone to their eternal reward. The fact the Government is clinging to the issue of it not being a party to the Labour Court recommendation does not stand up to scrutiny. The State is ultimately underpinning these CE schemes and needs to find a way of giving effect to the Labour Court recommendation. Governments always accept Labour Court recommendations in principle and the Government should do so in this matter as well.
It is indisputable that there has been considerable procrastination. This issue has been dragged out time and again. If the Government is not going to do anything about this, it should be honest. Instead of talking about another review or another forum, it should just say it and be honest with those involved. Of course, wider implications have to be considered but these need to be teased out in a professional way. Are there other categories of employees who are comparable and who have a similar Labour Court recommendation in their back pocket? I certainly do not know of any.
The Minister needs to meet the unions and find a way forward. I am a firm believer that if the political will is there, any issue can be resolved. This issue can certainly be resolved. I want to reassure the House that Fianna Fáil is committed to resolving this issue.

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