Pensions for community employment supervisors could cost State €500m

The Government has said that granting pensions to 1,250 community employment scheme supervisors could cost the State over €500m, because it would trigger knock on claims across the community and voluntary sector.

Unions have warned that the supervisors may take industrial action if a 2008 Labour Court recommendation, which ruled that an agreed pension scheme for the workers should be put in place without delay, is not implemented - writes

The Government argues that the employees in question are not public servants, but are employed by private exchequer-funded companies in the community - and thus have no entitlement to the pension arrangements they are seeking.

However, unions say that many workers made no alternative arrangements because an ongoing process of engagement led them to believe that the Labour Court recommendation would ultimately be implemented.

The Dáil debateda Fianna Fáil motion on the matter introduced by party spokesperson Willie O'Dea, who described the Government's position on the issue as "threadbare and mendacious".

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and ReformMichael D’Arcysaid that conceding pensions to the Community Employment Scheme Supervisors would potentially have significant implications across the community and voluntary sector, costing up to €188 million a year - with a further €318min ex gratia awards.

However, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said the real cost would be €6 million a year, with €19mfor ex gratia payments.

Deputies from all opposition parties and groups - including Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher - praised the work of community employment schemes around the country, and slated the Government for failing to deliver pensions for staff who would be left in poverty in old age.

They also warned that the failure of the Government to implement a Labour Court recommendation would undermine the court's authority, and send a signal to bad employers that they could also ignore recommendations.

Others queried the potential scope of knock-on claims, noting that only the CE supervisors had a Labour Court recommendation in their favour.

Speakers also criticised the failure ofMinister for Finance, Public Expenditure and ReformPaschal Donohoe and Minister for Employment Affiars and Social ProtectionRegina Dohertyfor failing to attend the debate.

25,000 people take part in Community Employment Schemes aimed at assisting them in returning to the workplace and delivering social services.

Chair of the Public Accounts CommitteeSean Fleming noted that estimates previously voted through the Dáil had made €10mavailable for the pensions, but that money had been handed back because the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection had failed to make the necessary arrangements.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said there was no excuse for failing to provide pensions, given that the Department of Finance had briefed the Public Accounts Committee about the robust pace of economic recovery.

She described a Government amendment on the topic as "nonsensical" and "an embarrassment".

Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte noted that the employees in question earned less than €11 per hour, with some reliant on Family Income Supplement.

Labour TD Willie Penrose said his party leader and former minister for public expenditure and reform, Brendan Howlin had brought forward a scheme to address this before leaving his post.

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