Amid fears of a ‘pensions crisis’ among the ESB Group of Unions, local Senator John Whelan has stated that he has received ‘the most categorical and comprehensive assurances’ from the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, that the pension scheme is safe, secure and robust.
Senator Whelan says that he hopes this I hope will go some way in allaying the legitimate concerns of the 13,700 workers in the ESB pension’s scheme
Senator Whelan commented, “The ESB Defined Benefit Pension Scheme is, by far, the largest funded pension scheme in the country with liabilities in excess of €5 billion. It is a statutory scheme enacted in 1942 and its security is of profound importance to the hundreds of ESB workers and their families in my community, throughout the midlands and across the country. I raised the issue in the Senate in response to the numerous representations made to me by ESB workers largely concerning a funding deficit of €1.8 billion in the scheme.
“Minister Rabbitte could not have been anymore unequivocal when he addressed by questions on the ESB pension scheme in the Senate and he was adamant that the ESB pension scheme was absolutely robust and secure. I raised the spectre that any lingering doubts amongst workers concerning their pensions could lead to industrial unrest as we head into the winter months. This is the last thing we need in the country from a company as strategically important as the ESB as the economy continues to make gradual improvements towards recovery and growth.”
Senator Whelan said he was relieved to learn from Minister Rabbitte in the Senate that the trustees of the ESB scheme, with the agreement of ESB, submitted a funding plan to the Pensions Board which will eliminate the deficit by 2018 and that this plan is on track. He added that it was also significant that Minister Rabbitte reiterated, in no uncertain terms, that there is no cause for concern or unease on the part of ESB workers concerning their pensions.
In response to Senator the Seanad, Minister Rabbitte stated, “I agree with the Senator. The last thing the country, the economy and private domestic consumers need is industrial unrest, I genuinely do not believe there is any serious cause for industrial unrest. The ESB pension scheme is absolutely sound. The ESB pension scheme is one of the most robust in the country. I honestly believe that the pension scheme is sound. I can understand why it is so important for the workers concerned but in my best judgement there is not any cause for concern or unease on their part. Everybody knows that the ESB is not going to close down on Friday evening, nor will all the employees be going out on pension at the weekend. Therefore, the concerns will not be realised.”
Senator Whelan noted that this ws a most thorough and forthright response from Minister Rabbitte.
He commented, “I believe it will go a long way to assure ESB workers that their pensions are safe and to bring a level of detail and clarity to an issue, which if not resolved would have implications not only for the ESB workers and retirees and their families but the broader community also. In that regard I am grateful to Minister Rabbitte for his comprehensive response and detailed assessment of the ESB pension schemes actuarial valuation and funding status.”