Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Questions (229)

Finian McGrath


229. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will support the deferred members of the Irish airline superannuation scheme who have made contributions over 30 years given that it is being annihilated by the trustees of the fund, and make this a priority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23797/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Resolution of the funding difficulties in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS), where there is a deficit of over €760 million, is a matter for the Trustees, the companies participating in the Scheme, the members and the Pensions Board. The deficit in the scheme has arisen over the years as the companies and the members did not put enough into the scheme to match the benefits that were expected/promised. Resolution of the issues will involve contributions from all the parties involved.

There are over 5,000 deferred members of the scheme and I do understand their concerns in relation to the funding of the scheme. However, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have no function in relation to the administration of the IASS. While I am keen to see a solution, this is primarily a matter for the trustees, the members of the scheme, the companies participating in the scheme and the Pensions Authority, which is the regulator of such pension schemes.

Pension schemes are closely regulated under Irish and European pension law and the Pensions Authority is the statutory regulator. There are prescribed procedures and limitations in place governing any reductions in pension rights introduced to address funding difficulties in a scheme such as the IASS. Pensions policy  is primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Social Protection, Ms Joan Burton T.D. The trustees are required by law to act in the best interests of all members: active, deferred or pensioner. The letter from the trustees to the employers and unions earlier this year concerning amendments to the scheme formally requested them to give appropriate consideration to the position of the deferred members in further discussions.

Following consultations between my Department, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, an Expert Panel was set up to investigate how a resolution of the industrial relations issues relating to the IASS could be resolved. The Panel is due to make its final report in the next two weeks. In the course of its deliberations the Panel met with representatives of the deferred pensioners.