Government needs to Step Up and Step In to resolve ESB pension crisis

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald TD has this morning sought a Dáil debate on the escalating crisis in the ESB due to management’s unilateral decision to shift all the company’s pension liabilities onto its workers with the resulting threat of industrial action.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“In June of this year officials from the Departments of Social Protection, Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Communications Energy and Natural Resources met with ESB management and unions to discuss the crisis in the pension fund. Despite department officials promising a process of dialogue not a single meeting has taken place since despite efforts by the ESB Group of Unions.

“There is a very simple truth at the core of the pension’s crises in the ESB. From 2011 management unilaterally decided to treat the workers Defined Benefit scheme as a Defined Contribution scheme for accounting purposes. Leaked management emails in the public domain reaffirm this.

“By taking this unilateral action management transferred all of the liability of the scheme to the workers, which coupled with changes to pension funding standards could potentially wipe out entitlements on retirement. This is a bad situation for any worker but the severity of situation is worsened for ESB workers as the majority of them are not entitled to a state pension.

“The bottom line is government could have averted the prospect of industrial action if it had delivered on its commitment to oversee a process of dialogue. Government signs off on the ESB’s annual accounts and is the primary stakeholder of the company. To date government Ministers have stuck their head in the sand and refused to engage on the escalating crisis. It’s time now for government to step up and step in.” ENDS

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