The Minister for Finance, following publication of the Mercer report on bankers' pay and so on, requested the banks to reduce the pay of bank workers by between 6% and 10%. The impression given by the Taoiseach and others at the time was that this was designed for the fat cats in the banks, the people earning hundreds of thousands of euro. The executives of Permanent TSB responded to the Minister's diktat by ceasing contributions to the defined benefit pension scheme, essentially winding up the scheme, with devastating losses for ordinary workers. The bank's response was only to target workers in the defined benefit pension scheme and some 70% of the workers will suffer devastating losses as a result of this action. Up until then the company had provided €127 million per annum. It decided to cease paying this €127 million and has withdrawn it from the pension scheme. Workers face a reduction of anything from 50% to 70% in their pensions. Those who expected to receive a pension of €30,000 a year on retirement will now only receive €5,000 a year. That is how devastating the loss will be for them. There is no recognition of length of service or the amount of contributions paid into the scheme to date.
The Government has washed its hands of this issue. When the Minister requested banks to implement a reduction in pay of between 6% and 10% in line with the recommendation made in the Mercer report, he said he would not be prescriptive and has consistently held to that line. It is up to bank executives to do what they wish. I remember the Taoiseach grandstanding here with me and others saying this was all about the fat cats in the banks and that they would have to lead by example. They led by example - they took very few cuts themselves. In this case they will not take any hit on their pensions, but they decided unilaterally to hit the workers via their pensions, with no cuts being made to their pay or anything else. They have done this indiscriminately and unilaterally in an arbitrary manner. They are savaging the pensions of workers in Permanent TSB, which is unfair and wrong. The Taoiseach has the power to change this. I ask him, first, to accept that this is unfair. Second, will he reassure the House that he will ask the Minister for Finance to engage with the executives of the bank to reverse this approach, which represents a very cynical implementation of a Government diktat in terms of overriding a pay reduction instruction to the banks? Those at the bottom of the pile are being hardest hit as a result of this action. I ask the Taoiseach to intervene and reverse it.