The Caretaker Candidate for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the rural St. Andrew North West constituency, Phillip Alexander has given an insight into the party’s position on pension and wages in the country.
Alexander, the NDC spokesman on Infrastructure, said that although the issue needs to be addressed by Congress, tackling the problem cannot be done in an ad-hoc manner.
Speaking on a popular radio programme on Monday, the NDC Caretaker stated that the issue of an overall pension package cannot be handled in its current construct as government pension is not all that should be considered.
According to Alexander, a wider pension package deal is what is needed to be put on the table for discussion.
“We need to give active consideration and we are giving that as we speak to what is a wider package deal for the entire pension and citizens who are on pension because that is where the challenge lies.
“So, the challenge is not just government pensions. The issue … must be part of a wider package. It cannot be an ad hoc decision, it must never be. That is why I am careful to make mention … and to explain to the nation that we need to find solutions to these things.
“We can’t just say we’re going to increase wages by the drop of a hat, that wouldn’t happen. We have to increase wages on the basis of changing the levels of production in our society; we have to become more creative.
“…We need to start thinking actively of getting alternative ways of working and more creative ways of increasing production in our society.
The issue of resolving pension owed to public officers is expected to be one of the major agenda items in the upcoming general election.
The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government has written to the three public sector unions outlining a proposal to address the unconstitutional action taken by the left-leaning 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) to discontinue pension for civil servants with the creation of the state-run National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
The proposal calls for government pension benefits “to be paid to eligible officers in the form of a combined pension premised on the principle of a top up on the pension benefits paid by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS)”.
It said that “no eligible officer should receive a pensionable income stream which is less than fifty per cent (50%) of their final salary inclusive of the National Insurance Scheme pension benefits under this new proposed arrangement”.
The government document said in part: “This proposal is subject to the completion of a comprehensive data collection exercise as well as the undertaking of an actuarial study.
“Consequently, Government places on the table in principle the formula below for calculating the pension benefits under this new arrangement on the understanding that the cost of the liability has to be first determined and any agreement would be subject to affordability and sustainability:
*Pensionable Income Stream equals half of the difference between one’s NIS pensionable benefits and the value of sixty-six percent (66%) of the final base salary paid by Government plus the NIS pension entitlement.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the unions – Public Workers Union (PWU), Grenada Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) – are currently engaging local experts to help formulate a response to the government proposal.