Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Questions (176)

Martin Heydon

Question:

176. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the work of the community sector high level forum examining issues relating to community employment supervisors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50383/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Community Sector High Level Forum has extensively examined certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment Sector as a whole having regard 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 membership of this Forum includes public service management and union representatives.

The requirement for such an in-depth examination on the part of the Community Sector High Level Forum arose from the need 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.

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 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.

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.

The Forum met in the period subsequent to the conduct of the scoping exercise where relevant matters in respect of this issue were discussed in comprehensive detail with the members of the Forum. 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.

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.