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Major warning over €300 pension ‘not too far from welfare’ for thousands, amid calls for reform of ‘unfair’ scheme

Major warning over €300 pension ‘not too far from welfare’ for thousands, amid calls for reform of ‘unfair’ scheme

A FIREFIGHTER has told how she could be left with a pension of around €300 a week when she retires after decades of service due to an unfair two-tier system.

Following the financial crash, access to a supplementary pension scheme was removed for all gardai, soldiers, prison officers and firefighters who joined the services after 2013.

Firefighter Aisling Buffini at the launch of the Secure Our Future campaign at Leinster House
GRA chairman Mark O’Meara believes the issue of pensions is one of the main causes of the premature departure of Gardai.

This means that a uniformed officer earning €60,000 a year will receive an occupational pension of just €16,300 when they retire at 55, with which they will have to live for ten years before accessing the pension. the State at 65 years old.

For their part, an older executive who joined the company before 2013 will receive a full pension of €31,800 from the age of 55 simply because they benefit from the supplementary pension plan.

Unions representing gardai, soldiers, prison officers and firefighters have come together as part of the Secure Our Future campaign to call for the top-up pension to be provided to all members who joined after 2013.

Unions say the pensions issue is the biggest problem pushing soldiers and gardai to leave the armed forces prematurely and change jobs to secure their financial future.

Firefighter and paramedic Aisling Buffini joined the Dublin Fire Brigade in 2020 and told the Irish Sun she may have to live on a pension of around €300 a week when she retires.

Although Aisling was not given an exact figure on her pension, she said: “All I know is that it is significantly lower than my colleagues were before 2013 and some of the figures that have been rejected amount to 300 euros per week. which is not enough for anyone to survive.

“I think even social benefits are not far from that, so they are significantly lower.

“What I’m experiencing right now is that I’m one of those who can’t afford to live in Dublin. I live in Kildare so I have to travel 70km every day to get to work.

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“My gas bill is 400 euros a month, so my pension wouldn’t even cover having to work.”

The firefighter said she feared she would not be able to repay her mortgage on her future pension.

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She said: “I’m two years into a 35-year mortgage. I now have to pay too much every month to try to shorten my mortgage term because when I retire I won’t be able to afford to pay a mortgage and my pension bills as is.

“I also had to launch an additional voluntary contribution to try to anticipate the shortcomings of the unitary regime. I am currently under financial pressure to try to ensure my financial security in the future.

“As someone who would like to start a family one day, I have to be aware that when the time comes to retire, I may have children still in college and at home who will not be able to afford to move due to the inaccessibility of the housing market.

“My pension, as it is, will not be enough to support my family. »

Retirement age

Firefighters must retire at 55 but the government is working on legislation that will extend that retirement age to 62.

Asked about the prospect of working into her 60s, Aisling told the Irish Sun: “The work is very, very physical. There aren’t really any options for what we would call “light duty” in frontline services.

“You would still be walking into a fire at 60 with a BA set – you’re talking about an extra stone of equipment above you going into a fire.

“You’re carrying people up and down stairs. It’s very physical work. It is also very mentally difficult work.

Retirement problem

Garda Representatives Association president Mark O’Meara told the Irish Sun that the pensions issue is one of the main reasons why Garda are leaving the force to find financial security elsewhere.

Representative Association of Commissioned Officers general secretary Conor King said the pensions issue was worsening the recruitment and retention crisis in the defense forces.

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He said: “We have gone backwards at an alarming rate in recent years. It is very important that this is seen as the number one retention challenge across the entire defense force.

Karl Dalton of the Prison Officers Association said the decision to punish uniformed workers who joined after 2013 is a direct attack on workers.