Irish workers squeezed as Great West Lifeco dividends rise
Union challenges company to explain why Ireland singled out for scheme closure
April 19th: Unite today announced that a second day of strike action at Irish Life will take place on Tuesday April 24th. The dispute centres on the company’s unilateral decision to close the workers’ Defined Benefit pension scheme as of June 30th without the union’s agreement.
The scheme has never been in deficit, the surplus will be €240 million on June 30th, and the scheme has assets of around €1.1 billion. Closure of the DB scheme would result in workers losing up to 35% of their anticipated retirement income, leaving many facing pension poverty.
Close to 800 Unite members will be involved in the 24-hour stoppage, which will last from 0.01 hours to 23.59 hours on Tuesday April 24th and will involve pickets being placed on Irish Life offices in Dublin and Dundalk. The action follows a 24-hour strike last Thursday, and will again significantly impact on all aspects of Irish Life’s operations.
Commenting, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Richie Browne said members were particularly angry that Irish Life’s decision to close the staff pension scheme coincided with a 6% increase in the dividends paid by parent company Great West Lifeco to shareholders. Mr Browne also queried the company’s decision to close the Irish Life pension scheme while other Defined Benefit schemes in the Great West Lifeco group remain open to future accrual.
“The unilateral decision to close Irish Life’s Defined Benefit pension scheme at a time when the company returns over €200 million annually to parent company Great West Lifeco – which announced a 6% increase in dividends last year – shows that the interests of Great West Lifeco shareholders are being prioritised over the retirement security of Irish Life workers.
“It is noteworthy that, according to Great West Lifeco’s own documentation, not all their subsidiaries’ DB schemes have been closed. The company needs to tell our members – and the general public – why the Irish Life scheme has been singled out for closure.
“As the country’s largest pension provider, Irish Life regularly comes up with solutions to ensure that clients’ DB schemes remain open. It is ironic that the company seems unwilling to devise and negotiate a solution to preserve its own employees’ DB scheme.
“Our members were heartened by the public support they received during last week’s strike. As they prepare for a second day of strike action next Tuesday, the resolution of this dispute remains in the hands of Irish Life and their parent company, Great West Lifeco. Unite remains available for meaningful talks aimed at ensuring that our members can look forward to a secure income in retirement”, Richie Browne concluded.