It is important to stress that the industrial relations system in Ireland is voluntary in nature as regards access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. Any change to that principle would alter fundamentally the conduct of industrial relations that has served us very well.
The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 introduced a provision to provide access to the industrial relations bodies in respect of former employees on an individual basis. This was facilitated by an amendment to Section 23 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 which extended the scope of the definition of "worker" to include workers who have ceased employment.
The question of providing access to the State's industrial relations bodies by groups of pensioners was also considered in the context of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015. However, it was considered that it was more appropriate that collective concerns relating to pensions should more appropriately be addressed under pensions legislation.
It is the case that active members of pension schemes can and do regularly engage with employers in an attempt to reach an agreed position as regards changes in pension schemes. This may come about as a result of a crisis in the scheme or otherwise. The outcome of that engagement can only be a collective agreement which cannot, in and of itself, alter the pension schemes concerned. Proposed changes to schemes are given effect via the mechanisms set out in pension trust deeds and rules of schemes and are at the discretion of the parties designated in the rules/deeds of schemes. It is considered that it is within this framework that a collective approach would be most effective.
In terms of changes to pension schemes generally, the Trustees of a particular pension scheme are required by law to act in the best interests of all the members, be they active, deferred or pensioner members.
Responsibility for pensions legislation rests with my colleague, Regina Doherty TD, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and I understand that Section 50 of the Pensions Act 1990 was revised in 2015 to provide for the recognition by trustees and the Pensions Authority of groups representing the interests of retired and deferred scheme members of a particular pension scheme.