Belfast Telegraph

Ex-workers plead for pension rights

Elderly and infirm former Waterford Crystal workers will die before they receive long-awaited pension entitlements, it has been claimed.

As up to 100 retired employees picketed Leinster House urging the Government to reimburse shortfalls in their pensions, one frustrated protester said there is no time for heel dragging.

Tom White, who worked at the glass factory for 41 years before it went bust in 2009, leaving staff entitled to just a fraction of their pension, said about 16 workers have died in the last four years.

"It's an old workforce, an older generation," said Mr White, 62.

"If we have to wait another couple of years, not all of us will be around to collect what we're entitled to."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny dashed workers' hopes of the Government agreeing to an out-of-court settlement to ensure they get what they are owed.

He acknowledged a ruling from the European Court of Justice in April that the State is legally obliged to protect workers' pension entitlements when a company declares insolvency but said a High Court action must run its course. "I don't want to give any false hope here," Mr Kenny said.

When the company went under in 2009, about 1,500 workers were told they would receive between 18% and 28% of their full pension entitlements due to massive deficits in its pension fund.

In the subsequent European court case, the State argued that the country's dire economic situation should be taken into account when calculating its liabilities to the workers. But the court ruled that the State was in breach of EU law and the High Court will decide how much the State must cover.

Workers and Unite the Union have argued that, if the State appeals against the figure determined, the case could drag on for a further three years.

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