Waterford workers waiting five years for payouts

Kieran Hartley.

Kieran Hartley.

IRELAND South European election candidate for Fianna Fail Kieran Hartley has expressed his disappointed that former Waterford Crystal workers are still waiting for payouts.

Almost a year after the European Court of Justice ruled in their favour and five years after they lost their jobs, former workers at Waterford Crystal have still not received tens of thousands of euro in pension entitlements to which the court said they were entitled.

In 2009, both Waterford Crystal and its pension fund became insolvent, with workers being told at the time that they would receive only between 18% and 28% of their full pension entitlements.

However, their British counterparts in Wedgewood had their entitlements secured by Britain’s pension protection fund and received 90% of owed sums.

Initially, the former Waterford Crystal employees pursued a case before the Commercial Court, saying the State had failed to meet its obligations under the EU Insolvency Directive to “protect” staff whose employers become insolvent.

“At the time, the then secretary general of the Department of Finance, Kevin Cardiff, told the court that the economic crisis and the terms of the EU/IMF bailout meant the Government could not commit to pay the estimated €13bn actuarial cost of providing a state guarantee of the full pension entitlements of workers in cases of employer insolvency,” said Mr Hartley.

In 2012, the workers took the case against the social protection minister and attorney general to the European Court of Justice.

Finally, last April, the European court returned a ruling that the pensions of up to 1,700 former Waterford Crystal workers must be protected.

“But almost 12 months later, the workers have still not been given the pension entitlement,” said Mr Hartley.

The case is back before the Commercial Court where it has been adjourned on a number of occasions.

The legal team for Unite trade union, which represents the former workers, has informed the court of its position on the level of protection of pension entitlements the former workers should get as well as an appropriate method for calculating the losses suffered.
“It is now over five years since Waterford Crystal workers lost not only their jobs but also their pensions, and nearly a year since the European Court of Justice ruled that the Irish State had failed to protect the pension entitlements of our members,” said Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly.

“Since then, the Government has refused to address the implications of the European Court of Justice decision, instead allowing the case to continue winding its way through the courts. The continuing delay and uncertainty is adding to the strain being experienced by our members and their families. We are once again calling on the Government to do the decent thing and comply with the European Court of Justice decision without any further delay.”

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