Pensioners are calling on the Government to “give them a voice” and back a proposed new law seeking to hand retired workers greater rights over their pensions.
Tony Collins said changes to the law were needed as former workers do not have any place to go with grievances when their pensions come under attack.
The chairman of the ESB Retired Staff Association, which represents 9,000 former workers, called on the Taoiseach to honour his commitment to representatives of retired semi-state organisations at a meeting in December 2019 that he would change the law to ensure greater rights for pensioners.
Once you become a pensioner in this country you lose your voice
People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith introduced proposed legislation in the Dáil last week that aims to protect pensions of public, private and semi-state workers.
The Industrial Relations Provisions Bill 2020 would give retired workers’ representation when changes are proposed to their existing pensions schemes and give them the right to take cases to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
It would also ensure retired workers would have a higher degree of negotiation than the trustee boards of schemes.
It has been backed by a number of retired groups.
Mr Collins said the proposed legislation would be an “important step forward” for the rights of retired employees, which would assist them when their pensions come under attack.
“Once you become a pensioner in this country you lose your voice,” he said.
“When you’re working you have a voice with your employer, you have power, you’ve the right to withdraw labour.
“But when you become a pensioner you don’t have a place to go with any grievance.”
Former ESB workers were among hundreds of pensioners from public, semi-state and private sectors who took to the streets in a series of protests in recent years calling for an end to pension freezes and a change in the legislation.
Mr Collins said ESB pensioners are angry over pension freezes imposed over the past decade and being left out of negotiations that effect their livelihoods.
We should not be simply dismissed because we’re no longer employees
“It is financially hurting people,” he said.
“One might say inflation is low but if you haven’t had an increase in 11 years it hits your back pocket. Pensioners are feeling the pinch.”
Tony O’Connor, chairman of the RTÉ Retired Staff Association, said: “When you retire you become invisible.
“You have few options. You are powerless.”
Mr O’Connor, who also chairs the Retired Semi-State Association, said RTÉ employees, like most semi-state organisation employees, are not entitled to the State pension and so are entirely reliant on the RTE pension which had not increased in the last 13 years.
“The purpose of the legislation is simply to amend the wording that covers pensions from employees to employees and former employees,” he said.
“It is to make sure that pensioners have legal rights to have their voices heard.
“We should not be simply dismissed because we’re no longer employees.”
People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith said there have been huge attacks on pension schemes across the country over the past decade.
The Dublin South-Central TD said: “One particularly vicious aspect of these attacks is that workers who have paid into these schemes all their lives, and often been active members of their trade union fighting for improvement in these schemes, find that once they have left employment they have no say in any changes been made to their pensions.
“So, in case after case in recent years we find significant changes and cuts in pension payments and benefits with absolutely no say or input form the cohort most affected by these changes- retired workers themselves.
“This gross injustice has to be addressed and this Bill seeks to do so.”