The Hermilyn Armstrong case

There appears to be a new twist in the Hermilyn Armstrong case in which government has to pay a pension to the retired civil servant.

Presidents of the three Trade Unions representing public officers in the country – Lyden Lewis, Adrian Francis and Chester Humphrey

Presidents of the three Trade Unions representing public officers in the country – Lyden Lewis, Adrian Francis and Chester Humphrey

THE NEW TODAY understands that almost half of the sum due to Armstrong had to be handed over to the state-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS).

This newspaper was unable to reach President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Adrian Francis for comment on the issue since he was out of the country.

A female officer at the union head office on the Port Highway in Tanteen was not forthcoming with information and referred THE NEW TODAY to the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU).

However, according to well-placed sources, the union intends to return to court to seek clarification on the ruling of the high court judge.

In October 2012, Madam Justice Margaret Price-Findlay delivered a landmark judgment that has serious implications for civil servants who were prevented from getting a pension if they had joined the service after 1983.

The court ruling had the effect of qualifying Armstrong to receive benefits, pensions and gratuity accumulating to the sum of $56,724.59 with an interest rate of 6% per annum.

Armstrong began her service as a Key Punch Operator in the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Trade in May 1983 and retired in August 2009.

The court ruling also stipulated that interest has to be paid on the arrears at the rate of 6% per annum from the effective date of her retirement.

Government was refusing to pay the retired civil servant on the grounds that the Pensions Disqualification Law 24 of 1983 applied to her. This law came into effect in April 1983 in conjunction with the establishment of NIS.

The 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.”

However, the High Court judge ruled in favour of Armstrong.

Armstrong received notice from the State that payments would begin to be made to her and from the end of October she will be getting pension from government.

The Presidents of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis, Public Workers Union (PWU), Adrian Francis and the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Chester Humphrey held a joint press conference last week to express their pleasure over the turn of events.

Francis said the Union has been working on this since 1983 while Lewis noted that the outcome is the reward for hard work over the years.

“It brings hope and some measure of comfort to those persons affected by the Pension Disqualification Act of 1983 because we believe based on our announcement this morning…our members can now apply for the pension benefits and we’ll take it from there,” he remarked.

According to Humphrey the ruling by the high court judge has implications for a number of public workers in the country and that all those who joined the civil service after April 4,1983 are entitled to a pension

“Our broad estimates to that amount of money could be well over a billion dollars but specifically in the Armstrong case which the State has now agreed that they will respect the decisions of the court that the matter will not be appealed and that Ms Armstrong will be paid which were the demands made by the Union,” he said.

The veteran trade unionist suggested that the time has come now for a national conversation on the issue of pensions.

The GUT President called on all retired public servants to bring in the necessary documents to claim their pensions that were denied them over the years.

“Several teachers who would have retired within the period and they have not received government pension, they are now bringing in their documents. So we want to continue to encourage workers who were disenfranchised by the debarring of the Pension Disqualification Act to now come into the Union office. We would find a way … as soon as possible to submit whether it is as a group or individual union to the Government to claim their pensions’ right,” he said.

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