by Linda Straker
Without providing a timeline, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell has indicated that he will most likely call the next General Election after his government, trade unions and other stakeholders resolve the “pension for public officers” issue.
Addressing a public meeting on Sunday night, he told the hundreds gathered that the pension issue is 1 national issue he wants to see resolved before he calls the General Election. That issue is the pension for established public officers. Consultation is presently being held with the unions and other stakeholders towards resolution.
“When the Pension Disqualification Act was enacted in 1983, many of our workers in the public service were dealt an uneven hand. Government go, Government come, that issue was never dealt with, and as a country, all of us must take responsibility for this,” he said in addressing the closing event for the convention of the Women’s Arm of the NNP.
“In other words, the governments of the past, including NNP will take responsibility, but our people, the trade union movement, the business community — all of us are guilty to some extent, not to have dealt with that issue long before,” he said. He explained that his present administration is working with all the stakeholders to deal with this problem urgently.
A General Election is constitutionally due in 2018.
“We hope and pray that with the consultation taking place this can be dealt with and a solution can be found; not necessarily finding all the monies to pay but a solution pointing the way forward before the next General Election is called. So that is the commitment from the New National Party, that is the only party that has seen to it that this is dealt with.”
He further informed the meeting that although the constitution provides for established workers or those appointed through the Public Service Commission, the aim is to have a pension for all persons who would have worked with the service for an extended period. These workers are referred as un-established workers.
Andre Lewis, President of the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU) welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister that the matter will receive urgent attention. However, the Pension Disqualification Act did not affect un-established workers. According to the rules, any un-established worker who serves for 15 continuous years shall be provided with monthly ex gratia payment.
The law provides for any worker who serves the Public Service for 10 continuous years to receive a pension from the government.
In April 1983, the then People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) led by Maurice Bishop passed legislation providing for the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to pay a pension based on contributions, but the section of the constitution given from the United Kingdom provides that all established public officer be provided with a pension upon retirement.
Though the PRG suspended the constitution, that law was never repealed, and then the constitution was restored in 1984 after the collapse of the Revolution. Since then hundreds of public officers have retired from the service without government pension.
The matter was recently taken to court by the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the judge ordered that government pay the pension, but that the money gained from the NIS must be returned.