Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ceisteanna (655)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

655. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of community employment supervisors (details supplied); if further discussions have taken place with unions on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11693/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I am acutely aware of the valuable and dedicated service that Community Employment, CE, sponsor organisations provide in running CE Schemes all over the country. CE supervisors, as employees of these organisations, are an integral part of that good work.

However, it is important to emphasise the fact that CE scheme supervisors are employees of private companies in the community and voluntary sector that receive public funding. They are not employees of my Department or public servants, and as such were not subject to pay reductions, pension contributions or the Pension-related Deduction, PRD, under the provisions of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI, which only applied to public servants.

The State is not responsible for funding pension arrangements for employees of private companies, even where the companies in question are reliant on State funding. Pension arrangements are a matter to be agreed between employees and their employers. All employers, including CE sponsoring organisations, are legally obliged to offer access to at least one Standard Personal Retirement Savings Account, PRSA, under the Pension (Amendment) Act 2002.

The issue was examined by a Community Sector High Level Forum, chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. A number of Departments including my own Department were represented on this group, as were the unions and Pobal.

Exchequer funded pension entitlements for CE supervisors presents very significant issues for the Exchequer. These supervisors comprise just one small group within the wider Community and Voluntary sector. Nevertheless, on foot of the Labour Court recommendation, a detailed scoping exercise was carried out with input from the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, IGEES, on the potential costs of providing Exchequer support for the establishment of such a pension scheme for employees across the Community and Voluntary sector in Ireland. This exercise estimated a potential cost to the State of between €188 million per annum and €347 million depending on the numbers involved, which is hard to establish. This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

CE supervisors may qualify for the State Pension (Contributory) if they have accrued sufficient PRSI contributions. The State Pension (Contributory) is not means-tested. This pension has a maximum personal rate payable of €12,695 per annum, increasing to €12,956 in March 2019.

The entitlement to an occupational pension is not a matter for this Department. It would therefore be proper for the Deputy to raise this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.