Closure of Irish Life pension scheme may trigger industrial action

Trade union Unite has announced that it will hold meetings with members in pensions giant Irish Life prior to balloting for industrial action in response to the company’s decision to close its Defined Benefit (DB) pension scheme on June 30.

Unite represents about 1,000 Irish Life workers, of whom around 700 are in the DB pension scheme.

Overall, the scheme has around 3,000 members, including pensioners and deferred members. The union said the scheme had never been in deficit and that it currently had a surplus of about €200m, and assets of around €1.1bn.

Unite regional coordinating officer Richie Browne said: "As Ireland’s largest pension provider, Irish Life has been trusted for decades to provide income security in retirement, yet now it has unilaterally decided to deny its own workers that same security.

"Unite has been advised that an employee would have to fund their new Defined Contribution pension by between 20% and 40% to yield a comparable retirement income to the current Defined Benefit pension.

"There is only one reason why Irish Life would close a scheme that is in surplus: it wants to get any financial risk off its balance sheet. By closing the Defined Benefit scheme and moving staff to a Defined Contribution scheme, the company has effectively transferred all risk to its employees.

"Irish Life and its parent company Great-West Lifeco are clearly prioritising the health of their balance sheets over the retirement security of their workers."

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