More than 170 former Waterford Crystal workers received €2 million from the Irish Pensions Trust this week after a tortuous legal battle ended in an out-of-court settlement.
The case was due before the High Court in Dublin on Monday but instead 174 ex-‘Glass’ employees gathered in Waterford’s Tower Hotel to receive cheques ranging from €4,000 to €22,000.
The Trust offered the settlement – which, requiring a three-quarters majority, was accepted by around 90 per cent of the workers concerned – almost a decade after a collective claim was first lodged.
Initially there were 360 plaintiffs party in the proceedings, all insisting that they hadn’t been properly informed of their pension entitlements on taking voluntary redundancy in 1992.
None of them ever received any pension despite years paying into a retirement scheme. Many of the original claimants (against both Waterford Crystal Ltd and the Trust) withdrew from the process in frustration while several others passed away in the interim.
However, 90 of the claims were settled confidentially on the courthouse steps in 2000, reportedly on the strength of supporting documentation.
Still, the company, which went bust a year ago, and the IPT, the scheme’s sole trustees, contended throughout that the workers had accepted lump-sum payments in lieu of a deferred pension.
However, the plaintiffs were adamant that they were never given the option of a deferred pension, which would have been much more valuable. “It was a rush job – sign here and off you go into the sunset,” said one.
Though some would argue that as a group they could and should have held out for millions more (with clearance to proceed with a claim for alleged fraudulent concealment granted to former blower Thomas Croke by the High Court in 2008), most felt the sorry saga had gone on too long.
One of them said yesterday: “It’s been a long struggle and I’m sad that many of our friends and colleagues never saw this come to a conclusion. It’s by no means a happy ending but we’ve simply taken enough.”