Sun | Sep 24, 2017

JCTU wants government to contribute to Public Sector Pension Scheme

Published:Friday | March 10, 2017 | 3:00 AMPaul Clarke
Helene Davis-Whyte, president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), in discussion with O'Neil Grant, vice-president, JCTU, at a press conference to address the Public Sector Pension Reform, in Kingston yesterday.

As the debate over public sector pension reform continues, the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) is calling on the Government to also make contributions to the public-sector pension scheme to make it easier for workers when the new legislation takes effect.

The JCTU has also sought to clarify its position in relation to several issues, including that the public sector trade unions are opposed to their members contributing five per cent of their salaries to a scheme that will ultimately benefit these same public-sector workers upon retirement.

"The JCTU is demanding a real pension scheme in which not only the workers contribute their fair share, but, like in the private sector and some other government agencies, the employer also contributes their share. The 'employer' in this case is the Government of Jamaica," stated a release from the JCTU.

This five per cent that the workers would pay comprises the existing four per cent now being deducted from public-sector workers' salaries and contributed to a scheme called Family Benefit and a further one per cent, to be paid from these workers' salary.

To this end, Helene Davis-Whyte, president of the JCTU, sought to set the record straight, stating at yesterday's press briefing that the umbrella organisation representing trade unions, the JCTU, had "absolutely no disagreement with the introduction of a contributory pension scheme".

The unions' proposal for reform "is something that will bring greater benefit to public-sector workers than them losing benefits", she said.

"And to that end, our discussions with various administrations have been with the intention of ensuring that as far as possible, public-sector workers will not lose as a result of the introduction of pension reform," Davis-Whyte said.

She said that discussions were ongoing on the issues and that the JCTU had already responded and put forward to the Government its position. They now await debate on the bill that is before Parliament.

Thirty per cent of the PAYE collected is from public-sector workers

JCTU vice-president O'Neil Grant said that the public-sector workers contributed up to 30 per cent to PAYE when the sector makes up only 10 per cent of the Jamaican workforce.

"Public-sector workers are taxpayers, too. As a matter of fact, 30 per cent of the PAYE that the Government collects is from public-sector workers, so we are, in fact, contributing to our own pensions, contrary to what has been said," Grant said.

He said that based on current calculations, workers would contribute approximately $2.5 billion over a number of years and that the unions were asking the Government to match the figure.

"Those figures are being looked at and refined because we have placed some things on the table, not just for persons who are eligible to receive a pension, but also for people who are temporary workers. And so, on the basis of yearly contributions, both the employers and the employees will have about $5 billion in that scheme on a yearly basis," noted Grant.

He said that the scheme should accrue in the region of $50 billion after 10 years, which would be significantly more than the $30 billion the Government is currently paying out of its coffers.