Unions threaten Gov't over pension proposal
Powerful trade union groups have sent a threat to the Andrew Holness administration, saying they will not accept the proposed pension reforms to come on stream on April 1 and are “prepared to fight”.
At the heart of the issue is the Government’s attempt to unburden taxpayers by getting the more than 100,000 public-sector workers to contribute five per cent of their salaries to their pension. Some workers are already contributing up to four per cent, but groups like teachers and local government officers have not been.
Under the Government’s US$1.7-billion standby arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the new public-sector pension law that was tabled in Parliament last year should be in place by April 1.
The revised system will also see the retirement age move from 60 to 65.
WILL CAUSE 'HARDSHIPS'
The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), which represents more than 25,000 public-school educators, said the changes will cause “hardships” on its members.
The group had suggested that the Government increase teachers’ gross salary or implements the reform at one per cent yearly until the full five per cent is reached.
The finance ministry has rejected those suggestions, according to JTA President Howard Isaacs.
Now, Isaacs is telling JTA members to “be prepared to fight” because “we believe we have a just case”.
“The JTA finds this response untenable and, therefore, as an association, we will be renewing all efforts to have Government rethink its position,” he argued. “No effort will be spared to ensure that the changes are made in the interest of you, our members.”
Isaacs said the JTA will “plot” a way forward when its central executive meets on Friday.
... The scheme will be to our detriment - police Federation
The Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), which is made up 11 unions and about 50,000 public-sector workers, has also issued fighting words to the Government, saying it will not relent in demanding a fair pension scheme.
JCTU President Helene Davis-Whyte said her members, who form the majority of the more than 100,000 public-sector workers, are prepared to go the distance against any action by the Government that will put civil servants at a disadvantage.
“We cannot accept that the government can commit to the IMF in a situation where they already have an agreement with us to try and finalise the issues before they begin implementing. You cannot force workers to accept less than they are currently receiving. The workers are resolute that they will not go into a situation where something like this is forced down their throat,” she said.
Davis-Whyte said the association will be seeking the intervention of the prime minister, as talks with the finance ministry are not leading to a resolution.
The Jamaica Police Federation’s chairman, Sergeant Raymond Wilson, said his members are against the proposals, which will be to their “detriment”.
There’s been no response from Government on the latest concerns. Telephone calls to Audley Shaw, finance minister, who returned to the island on the weekend, have gone unanswered. A representative from State Minister Fayval Williams’ office said she was overseas.
The prime minister is to deliver the keynote address at this morning’s Sagicor’s Annual Pension Investment Seminar 2017 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston.
The Government’s is spending more than J$20 billion on pension for its workers this fiscal year.