Pensions Board is 'not fit for purpose', says ICTU

Issued : 4 October 2013

Irish Independent

The top union body in the country has delivered a blistering attack on the pensions regulator.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said the Pensions Board was not fit for purpose and had failed to protect workers' pensions, the Irish Independent has learnt.

Head of pension policy at ICTU Fergus Whelan accused the board of disregarding the views of workers, many of whom have lost their pension benefits.

Mr Whelan questioned the actions of the Pensions Board in regulating defined benefit schemes.

Large numbers of these schemes in the private sector have had to be restructured, with members losing pension benefits they had been expecting. About a quarter of defined benefit schemes are expected to have wound up by the end of the year.

Mr Whelan said in a letter to the Pensions Board that workers had been let down.

"All that they have seen to date is increasing pressure on trustees, employers and unions to reduce benefits and close defined benefit schemes."

The comments were made in response to calls from the Pensions Board for submissions on proposals to tighten the rules for trustees of defined contribution schemes.

ICTU said the approach of the pensions board to regulating defined contribution schemes is "too narrow in scope and is skewed in favour of the industry and so-called professionals".

The board is proposing that new rules be introduced requiring more training for trustees of defined benefit schemes.

He points out that workers have been told to make provision for their pensions and the State has to keep the funds safe through regulation.

"These workers have been abandoned now that the systemic failure has occurred."

Also coming in for criticism are pensions companies.

"There is a long and dishonourable tradition in the pension market of making the simple complex for commercial reasons," Mr Whelan contended.

The Pensions Board had no comment on the submission.

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor