Public-sector workers want more dialogue on pension reform
Even as the Government targets April this year to pass the long-awaited Pensions (Public Service) Act, the main union representing public-sector workers says that state employees still have concerns about aspects of the proposed law.
Under the new US$1.7 billion standby arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Government has set the April deadline for passage of the public-sector pension law, with implementation scheduled for June 2017.
In a Gleaner interview, President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) O'Neil Grant said that public-sector workers were uneasy about certain provisions in the reform document that would have the effect of reducing the value of the pension. "It is going to go down from an accrual rate of 66.66 per cent to about 60 per cent in terms of the last salary."
IMPLICATION FOR WORKERS
Grant said that employees are not comfortable with aspects of the proposed law, which, he said, would have the effect of penalising workers by reducing their pension by one per cent per annum up to 10 years if they choose to retire early. "If your pension is going to be reduced so significantly, then it must have implications for how you are going to survive as a pensioner. We are looking at it and have indicated to the Government that we don't think the current legislation is in the interest of the worker as is," Grant asserted.
The JCSA head said that his union supports the proposal of moving the age of retirement to 65 as well as the introduction of a survivor's pension.
Grant told The Gleaner that the Government had indicated a willingness to have dialogue with the unions early this year to "go through the challenges that we are having".
The pension bill seeks to establish a defined pension contributory scheme where all pensionable officers will contribute five per cent of their salary.
SOCIAL PROTECTION OF WORKERS
In a related matter, Kavan Gayle, president of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), said that the time has come for the country to embrace a reform that protects workers in general in a structured pension scheme.
He argued that with little more than 20 per cent of Jamaica's labour force participating in a structured pension scheme, this should be of serious concern to the State. "These are some of the things we have to look at in terms of social protection. It is one of the agenda items under the Labour Reform Commission as to how we can look at improving that level of social protection for workers," Gayle said.
The BITU head also commented on the state of contract employment in Jamaica. According to Gayle, there is a great deal of uncertainty for fixed and short-term contract workers, particularly the security industry, and some hotel workers.
"We believe that there can't be reasonable growth if the State does not, in a serious way, start to embark on policies that can protect workers in this precarious type of employment," he added.