Unite welcomes ECJ Waterford Crystal pensions ruling

Unite welcomes ECJ Waterford Crystal pensions ruling

25 April 2013

“Government must now follow through and vindicate workers’ rights.”

Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly has welcomed today’s ruling by the European Court of Justice to the effect that the state is in breach of its obligations under the terms of the EU Insolvency Directive to ensure that employees receive sufficient accrued occupational pension entitlements.

Said Jimmy Kelly: “The ECJ ruling follows a High Court case taken by Waterford Crystal workers in the wake of the company’s 2009 insolvency.

“Today’s ruling will come as welcome news for workers who have seen the value of their occupational pensions collapse in the wake of insolvency. 

“It is now clear that, as argued by Unite, the state’s failure to institute a system of pension protection represents a breach of its obligations under the EU Insolvency Directive. 

“It is regrettable that the state chose to contest what should have been an open and shut case, causing distress and uncertainty for the workers involved and forcing the taxpayer to pick up a substantial legal bill.

“The onus is now on the government to follow through on this ruling and ensure that workers’ pension entitlements are protected.

“It should be noted that, at present, workers in the UK are entitled to receive 90 per cent of their accrued pension entitlements in the event of insolvency.

“This case was a crucial one not only for Unite, but for the trade union movement as a whole since it affects every worker who is a member of an occupational pension scheme. 

“Workers as individuals could not have any hope of taking a case like this. Membership of a trade union is the only means for workers to fight for justice in court cases which cost huge amounts of money. The Unite executive made a great decision on behalf of our members to support this case."

“In this context, Unite would like to acknowledge the support and assistance given by Siptu through their executive, and through their union’s leadership by Jack O'Connor.

“We would also like to thank all the members of our legal team whose expertise and perseverance helped bring about this result.

“Unite will now consider the full implications of the ECJ ruling together with our legal advisers, and will issue a more detailed response in the next number of days” Mr Kelly concluded.


For further information or to arrange an interview contact Jimmy Kelly (087-9003217) or Alex Klemm (087-2606139)

Notes for editors:
  • When Waterford Crystal was placed in receivership in January 2009 Unite argued that the EU Insolvency Directive required the government to take action to protect workers’ pension entitlements.  Following the government’s failure to take sufficient action, the union initiated legal proceedings against the state on behalf of Waterford Crystal employees.
  • The action was heard in the Commercial Court in 2011, but both sides agreed to refer the case to the European Court of Justice for clarification of certain aspects of EU case law.