The Justice Department argues that the former Garda cannot take action at the WRC in the pension dispute

A retired Garda sergeant has been told that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) does not have the power to rule on a pension dispute dating back to the early 1990s.

Rendon K. Colvert, a former Garda sergeant who spent much of his career investigating fatal traffic accidents until his retirement in 1983, has made a claim under the Pensions Act.

He claims he has received a lower pension than others of the same pay scale for over two decades, having retired in 1983 before improved benefits were negotiated for his grade in the early 1990s.

The complaint was called for a hearing at WRC Headquarters in Lansdowne House, Dublin 4 this morning.

Mark Finan BL, appearing for the Justice Department on orders from prosecutor Aoife Burke, said the WRC had no authority to hear the lawsuit.

He said that for the WRC to hear a claim under the provision cited in the complaint, it should have been made within six months of the complainant’s termination of employment – with the provision to extend it to one year.

“Mr. Colvert retired 35 years ago,” he said.

The sentencing officer, Breiffni O’Neill, initially indicated that he was interested in hearing the facts of the case and deciding any preliminary matters relating to a decision on the substance of the complaint.

However, Mr Finan argued that the Pensions Act contained a “gateway provision” which required the WRC to ensure that the statutory complaint had been made in a timely manner before proceeding to a full hearing.

He said Mr Colvert’s complaint could only be a matter for a court with jurisdiction to rule on contract law.

“That might be a good case, that might not… [but] You couldn’t get a clearer explanation of jurisdiction,” Mr Finan said. “This is considered law, it is not a formality.”

The applicant’s granddaughter, Mairead Loughman, who spoke for him at times during the hearing, said the alleged breach was ongoing as it happened “every single month”.

“It is a department tactic to thwart any effort to communicate with them… I, as an individual, would not be listened to by anyone,” Mr Colvert said.

Mr Finan said it was not a “tactic” and that the law applied to everyone.

Mr O’Neill said his jurisdiction was limited to the provisions of the law under which the complaint was made.

“My counter-argument to that is that we were frustrated. There was no response,” Mr Colvert said, adding that the complaint could not be made more than a decade after his retirement in 1983 because the Garda pension talks, which affected his grade, took place in 1993.

“My hands are tired. I can’t hear a case or complaint that’s been filed after 12 months,” said Mr. O’Neill.

Mr Colvert said it was “impossible” for him to meet the 12-month deadline and that his appeal would always take a number of years.

“I hear you may have other courses open to you. I can’t open these boxes. I can only open the boxes that are in front of me,” Mr O’Neill said to Mr Colvert.

He informed the parties that he would inform them in writing of his decision in the preliminary case. The Justice Department argues that the former Garda cannot take action at the WRC in the pension dispute

Fry Electronics Team

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