President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis has called on the Keith Mitchell-led government to honour a high court ruling and pay out what is due to former public servant, Hermilyne Armstrong who took legal action against the State.
In an interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, Lewis said that Armstrong had successfully brought a case against government claiming pension benefits which were denied her upon retiring from the service in August 2009.
Armstrong joined the public service in May 1983 as a Key Punch Operator in the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Trade.
The left-leaning 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop sought to do away with pension to civil servants when it introduced the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
According to the judgment handed down in October 2012 by High Court Judge, Margaret Price-Findlay, the Defendant, which is the Government, claimed that the law applicable in the matter is the Pensions Disqualification Law 24 of 1983 that came into effect in April 1983.
This law states that “Any person who is appointed to a post in the service of the Government of Grenada on or after the appointed day (4th April 1983) shall not be entitled to any pension, gratuity or other allowance under any of the scheduled enactment.”
The State put forward the argument Armstrong does not have a right to any gratuity of pensions under the Pensions Act Cap 214 of 1958.
“…They assert that they have not failed to pay the claimant a pension of gratuity but that the claimant has no right to such payments as the applicable law is not Cap. 214 of 1958 but the Pensions Disqualification Law of 1983 and Cap. 233 (The Pensions Act) of the 1990 Revised Laws of Grenada…”, said Justice Price-Findlay in her ruling.
However, the Judge noted that on the same date the Pensions Disqualification Law came into force, the National Insurance Act 1983 also came into force.
It is through this act that the NIS was established based on contributions from both employer and employee to pay various benefits including sickness, invalidity, maternity age and other benefits.
The judge ruled that Armstrong is eligible for benefits, pensions and gratuity, under the Pensions Act, cap 214, 1958 Revised laws of Grenada and “she is entitled to the sum of $56,724.59 representing her gratuity with interest at the rate of 6 % per annum from the effective date of her retirement to the date of payment.”
Lewis told this newspaper that up to this day, Armstrong has not received any payment from Government in violation of the high court judgement.
He recalled that government had given a commitment in the past to honour the ruling in favour of Armstrong but up to now nothing has been done.
“So we’ve asked for another meeting with Government and asked them to honour their commitment based on the court ruling and Government has indicated that they accept the ruling of the court and we are asking them to pay Miss Armstrong as soon as possible”, he said.
“…At the next meeting we will actually produce a document that we will ask them to sign, giving a commitment that they would pay,” he added.
Although Armstrong was a member of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Lewis told this newspaper that GUT has decided to take the matter under its wings in order to encourage others to fight for what is theirs.
“…We are hoping that after the next meeting or soon because we were given a time frame by the Court that they have not met, so we hoping that we will sign it at this time and the persons who are adversely affected will be compensated for the pension”, he remarked.
“…The Union cannot take the Government to court for pension, it has to be an individual member and we were considering that once one person could take the matter to court and they win, it will set the way for the others to get,” he said.