I propose to take Questions Nos. 523 to 525, inclusive, 547 and 553 together.
Community Employment (CE) supervisors and assistant supervisors have been seeking for several years, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.
In July 2008, the Labour Court recommended that an agreed pension scheme should be introduced for CE supervisors and assistant supervisors (LCR19293), and that such a scheme should be adequately funded by FÁS, who were then responsible for CE. FÁS was not a party to the LRC case.
In April 2017, the issue of CE Supervisor pension provision was considered by a Community Sector High Level Group chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER). A number of Departments, including my own Department, were represented on this group, as were the unions and Pobal.
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 and €347 million per annum depending on the numbers involved. This excluded any provision for an immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.
In its findings, the High-level Group stated that while CE supervisors and assistant supervisors represented 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 CE Supervisors would inevitably give rise to claims for similar schemes and funding provision on the part of the many thousands of workers in the broader sector. DPER stated that it had to have regard to the full potential Exchequer exposure associated with setting such a precedent.
At this point, I wish to acknowledge the valuable and dedicated service that CE supervisors provide in running CE schemes all over the country. We simply could not sustain a lot of our local community services without their work. CE provides a valuable training and development opportunity to the long-term unemployed and to those often furthest removed from the labour market.
The current position is that officials from my Department, DPER and the Unions are in ongoing discussions on the matter and I would therefore ask the Deputies to respect the confidentiality of the process and to allow those talks to continue free from speculation that may not assist the process at the present time.
As the Deputies are aware, the funding of any potential pension provision for CE supervisors will be a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and will need to be considered in the wider economic context in which any such scheme will need to operate.