Public sector unions to discuss pension reform
June 4, 2013

Public sector unions to discuss pension reform

Two leading trade unions here are expected to join forces to look at pension reform in St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

At a press conference of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) on May 29, public relations Officer Vibert Lampkin informed the media that his Union would team up with the Public Service Union (PSU), in preparation for a national discussion on the topic, which Lampkin said was vital.

“We know that very shortly there will be in this country a general discussion, as it relates to pension reform, and that general discussion would be conducted by the government.

“At the moment… what is happening is that currently, public servants who are pensionable, receive on their retirement, two pensions: pension from the NIS (National Insurance Services) and another pension from the consolidated fund, a non-contributory pension.

Lampkin hinted that the likelihood of both pensions being available in the not too distant future, may be under threat, and that soon the government may have to resort to one source of pension for public servants, hence the reason for joint talks with the PSU.

“We are in collaboration with them to hold some joint discussions, so that we can speak with one voice on this issue, and very shortly, we will be having some mass discussions, so that we can ensure that our members are brought up-to-date with what is happening, and that we are well prepared for those general discussions when they do happen,” Lampkin stated.

The SVGTU PRO hinted that the age of retirement may soon be under review, and that the Union was “keeping fingers on the pulse” of the situation, in the best interest of its members.

“Currently, as a public servant, there are two cut off points as it relates to retirement,” he informed.

“Persons who entered the service prior to second of August 1983, would retire at age 55, those who came in after the second of August 1983, will go up to age 60 to retire.

However, we have been hearing that that retirement age would incrementally go up to 61, 62, ultimately up to 65, and naturally we are very concerned about that, especially those members who would be retiring at age 55, whether or not they have to go up to 61, 62.

“Those are some of the questions that have not yet been answered, and so we are seeking information and clarity on the issue and we have not received any clear-cut indication as to when this extension of the age of retirement would come into effect and what category it would affect and therefore, we are preparing ourselves and preparing our members for the eventuality if it does come….

“But we are also concerned that the benefits that one would receive after retirement, that those benefits would remain intact.”

In November 2012, while preparing the estimates of income and expenditure for 2013, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr Ralph Gonsalves described pensions as “the major challenge” of his administration.

“The major challenge always is pensions. Now the pensions are growing at about five per cent annually. It is the fastest single growing item: retiring benefits, pensions and NIS contributions,” Gonsalves said during a radio call-in programme.

He said the government had been considering, since 2011, its option for reforming the present system, which qualifies public servants to receive two pensions, one from the National Insurance Services and the other from the central government.(JJ)