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Workers should fund their own retirement – OECD


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A major review of Irish pensions has recommended that workers should be obliged to contribute to pension schemes to fund their retirement.

The OECD Review of the Irish Pension System says that the best options would be either a universal basic pension or a means-tested basic pension.

These schemes would be complemented by mandatory private schemes, or “auto- enrolment” into additional pension schemes.

Over 900,000 workers have no provision for old age other than the State pension.

The OECD also recommends raising the retirement age to reflect the fact that people are living longer.

It calls for means-testing of pension related benefits like free travel and the household package.

The OECD highlights what it calls unequal treatment between public and private sector workers – with Government employees far more likely to enjoy defined benefit or guaranteed pensions.

It recommends that a cheaper public service pension scheme introduced last year for new recruits to the public service should be applied to some serving Government employees in order to secure savings sooner.

The new scheme, based on career averaging, will not deliver savings for decades when this year’s recruits begin to retire.

The OECD also recommends that any new scheme for private sector workers should be extended to the public service, while it urges legislation to improve protection for workers in defined benefit pension schemes in difficulty.

At present retired pensioners get first call on the remaining assets of the scheme, and this can leave scheme members who have not yet retired at a disproportionate loss.

It says the priority for pensioners already receiving their pensions should be eliminated.

The OECD urges caution about investing pension funds in domestic infrastructure projects, adding that supporting economic growth should not be used as an excuse to impose low returns on pension fund members.

It also states that the funding standard for pensions should be revised.

The report found that while Irish pensioners were in a comparatively good position compared to other age groups and international experience, the country’s pension framework faces challenges of sustainability.

However, it points out that there is a “misalignment” between the tax reliefs which incentivise pension saving by high earners, and the policy aim of promoting increased pension coverage for the lower paid.

The OECD also found that charges for small occupational and personal pensions were expensive.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said that her aim was to ensure that all older people have a safe secure retirement, adding that the sooner the system was reformed, the better.

However, she added that she was mindful of the economic crisis, and that would inform her strategy.

Ms Burton said she intends to bring proposals to Cabinet soon.

via Workers should fund their own retirement – OECD – RTÉ News.

via Workers should fund their own retirement – OECD – RTÉ News.

Surplus labour in an age of austerity


Austerity as the latest paradigm from the neoliberals is set to last us a number of years. One thing we know about how the capitalists work is that they like a large section of the population to be searching for work at any one time as this suppresses wages and allows businesses to act flexibly in competition with one another.

Unemployment is at widely differing rates around the world and different countries measure it in different ways.  Unemployment in one country might mean relying solely on government benefits until a job is found.  In others it might be measured differently and result in more interventions from the state than simply receiving a hand out.  At our last set of lectures we learnt that in South Africa you don’t get counted in the figures if you eat the produce from fishing or hunting.  Likewise if you beg you are not considered unemployed.  In the UK we have an increasing number of people on workfare schemes and others slipping in and out of informal and part-time work ans therefore slipping in and out of informal stats.  Unemployment is mysterious and not simply one thing that is easily defined.

One concern we should have is the effects of austerity for school leavers and those at retirement age.  It is very rare these two groups are looked at together and yet at the extremities of the labour market it seems to me that they have much in common in terms of feeling the brunt of austerity measures.

For years the establishment has been warning of a pensions black hole and the ruling class answer to this has been to raise retirement age in the hope that most people will die without having to draw any money from the state or their investments.  So people will have to drive themselves into the ground.  That is politically easier to put into operation than simply ditching state pensions altogether but you do wonder how many decades we are away from that policy objective.

The rules in place for working longer aren’t matched by employers being sympathetic about getting older.  The older we get the more likely we are to develop disabilities and need adjustments in the workplace which might cost money.  The policies on retirement age therefore produce tension and worry amongst the workforce and as markets liberalise we find that people have less choice and power over their lives.  The idea that people who have contributed for decades and built up an account full of deferred wages for use later in life is becoming a quaint notion.

At the other end of the scale we have young people, educated either privately or by the state.  Either way their education has been one long training course for the rest of their lives.  State school leavers face the prospect of there being very few jobs available right now.  At the same time their options with regards to further and higher education are being set by the ruling class on economic factors alone.  I worry that this effectively means that thousands of people are going to be joining benefit queues each summer.  How is that going to help increase taxation revenues and secure pensions?  How will less public sector jobs help the situation?  How will the mass of people at retirement age still working help the situation?

The answer of course is that they don’t want this to get better.  Austerity is a doctrine being used to create a narrative to explain the crisis of capitalism.  It is a crisis of the rich and by the rich but one where you pick up the bill.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, they want you to either work longer till you die or take any crummy job you can get to keep off benefits.  In fact it would be best if you took poorly paid work for the rest of your life and died before retiring please.  And as work is paid less and less so benefits are reduced as an incentive to get you up in the morning looking for work if you do happen to be unemployed.

Of course there is another way.  Hell, there are lots of other ways!  The UK is a rich nation with a flatlining economy.  The UK isn’t getting poorer – you are.  In other words some people are still getting a great deal richer at your expense.  Board room pay is up 27% this last year.  The wealth is there to fund retirement with dignity.  The wealth is there to ensure nobody need feel any poorer.  The wealth though has been taken from those who do the work by those who have the power.

We must have the courage to fight for it.

via Surplus labour in an age of austerity « Trade Onion.

via Surplus labour in an age of austerity « Trade Onion.

Older people are suffering the ill effects of the cutbacks


Older people are suffering the ill effects of the cutbacks and they stand in solidarity with their children & grandchildren who are also suffering.

This is why the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament will proudly march alongside trade unions and other community groups before Budget 2013 on Saturday next to say “No to Austerity”. We are asking all our members around the country to walk alongside us with dignity & respect to show the Coalition government that we have had enough of the recession, enough of the cuts to income and enough of the threats to the travel pass. The last Budget saw a vicious cut to the means tested fuel allowance thus increasing fuel poverty.

So walk alongside us … but wrap up warm with good shoes and scarves and gloves. This time however we want you to wear different shades of grey to symbolise the many hits we’ve taken. But we are not without hope – wear a sprig of green as well to show that we still have hope. And what about some “Greys in Shades” – wear some sunglasses as well.

Lastly what about some placards? We’ll have some but we encourage you to make your own & bring them with you. Your own words are always best but here are some possible slogans you could have on your placards:

We’ve paid for our Pensions

For a proper health service

Keep Older People Warm & Mobile

Fair Pensions for all

For dignity & respect

For a better, fairer old age

A Fairer Ireland for Older People

HITS – Health, Income, Travel, Security

Hit the bankers – Not the pensioners

Bash Bankers – Not Pensioners

We all stand together

Hands off our Pensions

We’ve paid for our pass

No more austerity

Enough is Enough

No more cuts

We’re all in it together

Why not just shoot us?

Never too old to suffer

No Country for Old Men … or Old Women

March is to be held on the 27th Nov

via Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament.

via Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament.

Common Criminals?


Can you imagine working for a company that has just 226 employees, which includes fraudsters, liars, alcoholics, bankrupts, expense cheats, etc.?

As a group, last year alone, they have cost the Irish taxpayer €113 million. Which organization is this?

It is the 226 members TDs and Senators of the  HOUSES of the OIREACHTAS. A group that manages to churn out countless new laws each year very few that are of benefit whatsoever to the normal citizen. Moreover, they award themselves with the very best ‘corporate’ pension scheme in the country! If you feel that this is an abysmal state of affairs, please pass it on to everyone you know.

Shocked Aer Lingus workers told they may get only 4pc of their pensions


AER Lingus has issued a shock warning to its workers that if the hole in its pension scheme is not addressed they could receive only 4pc of their expected benefits.

The airline has issued a statement to the stockmarket on its pension scheme.

It said the shortfall in the pension stood at €748m at the end of May.

According to the Aer Lingus statement, if the scheme had been wound up at that time current employees and those with deferred pensions would have received only 4pc of their expected benefits.

Those already drawing pensions are unaffected.

Aer Lingus is proposing to close the scheme to new entrants and freeze payments for current members.

The airline wants to replace the current pension fund with a defined contribution scheme.

Aer Lingus promised to make a once-off payment to kickstart this scheme if workers agree to pay restraint.

via Shocked Aer Lingus workers told they may get only 4pc of their pensions – Irish, Business – Independent.ie.

via Shocked Aer Lingus workers told they may get only 4pc of their pensions – Irish, Business – Independent.ie.

Unions seek €330m from Aer Lingus and DAA to resolve pension deficit row


Unions at Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority say the two companies will have to contribute at least €330m between them to resolve the row over the €750m deficit in their joint pension scheme.

Management and unions at the two aviation companies have been locked in complex negotiations to address the deficit at the scheme known as the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme (IASS).

Last week, SIPTU withdrew strike notice to allow negotiations to continue.

The latest figures are contained in a submission sent by Irish Congress of Trade Unions Industrial Officer Liam Berney to the talks chairman, Labour Relations Commission Chief Executive Kieran Mulvey.

Unions calculate that Aer Lingus would have to contribute at least €200m, with the DAA paying €130m, to ensure that members receive the pension benefits they have expected from the IASS.

The unions say that stringent pension regulations and the unwillingness of employers to increase contributions to the existing scheme could force its wind-up.

The DAA said it was currently in a process at the Labour Relations Commission in relation to the pension issue.

It said that based on actuarial advice, the DAA offer would deliver a substantial pension for DAA staff at retirement.

It described SIPTU’s earlier description of the DAA’s offer as “derisory” as a misrepresentation of the facts.

Aer Lingus said it remained committed to finding an appropriate solution to the issues involving the pension scheme.

Aer Lingus and the DAA have proposed freezing the current defined benefit scheme, and using the assets to buy sovereign bonds to fund benefits.

In future staff from the two companies would belong to two separate defined contribution schemes – which carry more risk for the employee.

The document notes that settling the dispute over the pension deficit will bring considerable benefits to the employers, by transferring risk from the employers to the employees, by improving the balance sheets of both companies, and by enhancing the Aer Lingus share price.

However, it also warns that employees stood to lose a considerable portion of their expected benefits.

Informed sources noted that legal action could not be ruled out, either by shareholders in Aer Lingus objecting to further payments to pension funds, or from deferred members or retired members of the scheme, who are not represented at the negotiations.

It also remains to be seen what position will be adopted by the trustees of the IASS, who have ultimate legal and financial responsibility for the scheme.

via Unions seek €330m from Aer Lingus and DAA to resolve pension deficit row – RTÉ News.

via Unions seek €330m from Aer Lingus and DAA to resolve pension deficit row – RTÉ News.

The Pensions will Keep us in Drink


Brian Cowen left office with a total package worth more than €310,000 last year, while Bertie Ahern rode into the sunset with over €299,000 — all funded by the taxpayer.

Papers recently have shown Mr. Cowen, received a ministerial pension of €79,738.97 last year. However, he also received a TD pension of €17,544, a €159,873 lump sum, plus termination payments.

All told, Mr. Cowen received €310,469 in 2011 before tax. He did not make any voluntary contribution to the State. The documents indicate.

A major beneficiary of these grandiose pensions is the brewer Arthur Guinness. A spokesperson for Guinness expects these benefits to show up in the next year’s balance sheet.

Transport Minister Varadkar calls for agreement before airports strike over pension – National News – Independent.ie


TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has called on all parties to reach agreement before a strike grounds operations at the country’s main airports.

Passengers have been warned they face disruption on Monday when staff at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports stage rolling work stoppages over a pensions row.

Aer Lingus has threatened to sue Siptu, its officials and members for two million euro a day for losses, while Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) will seek an injunction against the action at the High Court on Friday.

Mr Varadkar urged stakeholders in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme to renew their efforts to reach agreement.

Talks aimed at resolving the dispute at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) have been continuing since January.

“Minister Varadkar, who has been in regular contact with the stakeholders, said he is encouraging them to use the State machinery to resolve the current difficulties regarding the pension scheme,” his spokesman said.

“The minister said a renewed focus is necessary in order to avoid the proposed industrial action on Monday, which would cause huge inconvenience to the travelling public.”

The dispute centres on the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme, a pension pot jointly operated by DAA, Aer Lingus and SR Technics, which left Ireland in recent years.

The scheme has about 15,000 members but was in deficit by some €700m at the end of 2011.

Unions want Aer Lingus and the DAA to make significant investments to close the deficit in the fund.

Other unions involved in the dispute include Impact, Unite, Mandate and the TEEU, but they have not served notice of industrial action.

DAA maintains the stoppages are unwarranted while the industrial relations machinery of the state is fully engaged with this issue.

It is taking its court case amid claims some members, including fire, police and search units, cannot take industrial action because of existing agreements.

Elsewhere Aer Lingus said it has not breached collective agreements and warned it will hold Siptu and all relevant officers, officials and members personally liable in respect of the losses sustained if industrial action goes ahead.

The move could financially cripple Siptu, which has vowed to proceed with the action as planned.

via Transport Minister Varadkar calls for agreement before airports strike over pension – National News – Independent.ie.

via Transport Minister Varadkar calls for agreement before airports strike over pension – National News – Independent.ie.

Minister says Pensioners Must Pay More Tax


Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes said yesterday lots of elderly people told him they were “well off” because they did not have mortgages. “I think we need to realize that the one group of people in this country who have come through this crash and still have their incomes intact are pensioners,” he said.

“But it seems to me that the Irish political system will never countenance cutbacks on the elderly. My view is that all this needs to be on the table,” he said.

Mr. Hayes said pensioners were people with “common sense and judgment” who would understand the need to look at the State’s contribution to them. This would not be done in “some kind of hair-shirt way” but rather in a “sensible” manner.

What the minister appears to be saying is old people are on the pigs back as they have no mortgages. We must tax them severely for this crime. Why should they have a right to a happy retirement when the rest of the country is suffering? They have no right to a jolly old age. Look at me even I am suffering due to the public scrutiny of travel expenses. This you realize has a severe impact on my take-home pay.

One wonders, whether the legions of grey matter will take to the streets.

State will face €324bn shortfall over pensions – The Irish Times – Wed, Sep 12, 2012


THE GAP between the State’s future pension and social welfare liabilities and revenues to fund them stands at €324 billion, according to an unpublished report commissioned by the Government, which has been seen by The Irish Times. That figure is almost twice the size of the national debt as it currently stands.

The review of the Social Insurance Fund – the pot into which about €8 billion in pay-related social insurance contributions (PRSI) go to fund a range of benefits – was commissioned by the Department of Social Protection. Last year the fund’s annual shortfall stood at €1.5 billion, or 1.1 per cent of gross national product.

via State will face €324bn shortfall over pensions – The Irish Times – Wed, Sep 12, 2012.

via State will face €324bn shortfall over pensions – The Irish Times – Wed, Sep 12, 2012.

Bad News for Pensioners


Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed that various allowances for pensioners will be looked at and confirmed that free travel for pensioners is under review. However, she  insisted that as of now the Government has made no decision yet on next year’s Budget.

the IMF is due to publish a report tomorrow which is expected to push for universal social welfare reform as well as the speedy introduction of the property tax.

If you are a pensioner now is the time to start making your voice heard. Let the ripple of your actions be an inspiration to the nation

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