With general elections only days away, the Keith Mitchell-led government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with some Public Sector bodies to address the long-outstanding pension issue for public officers.
THE NEW TODAY understands that a deal is in the making based on behind the scene manoeuvres involving the so-called “Project Grenada” component of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government.
The MOU was signed with the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Royal Grenada Police Force Gazetted Officers & the Police Welfare Association, Her Majesty Prison Welfare Association and the Grenada Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU).
The agreement was not signed by the Public Workers Union (PWU), the largest bargaining body for public officers in the country.
The structure of the MOU was reportedly given flesh sometime on Sunday night as the NNP was holding its national campaign rally at Plains in St. Patrick.
Prime Minister Mitchell has consistently stated in recent years that he was committed to bring closure to the issue that surfaced with the enactment of the Pension Disqualification Act of 1983 under the left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).
A high court judge has ruled that the act was unlawful and in violation of the Constitution and cleared the way for qualified public officers who joined the service after 1983 to receive a pension.
Speaking on Tuesday morning in an interview with THE NEW TODAY on the decision of the PWU Executive not to sign the MOU, President of the Union, Rachael Roberts said that before affixing its signature on the document the body first needs to consult with its membership and will hold a special meeting today (Friday) at 3.00 p.m. at the PWU building for all who have been disadvantaged by the Act.
“As a democratic organisation, before we sign any document that would shape and influence the pension of our membership (and) impact on them for the rest of their lives, we believe that it is very important that they have a say and (an) input on the process (because) they must be knowledgeable on what is going forward on their behalf and influence it”, she said.
A copy of the signed document obtained by this newspaper showed that pension would only be paid to public officers provided the government can find the “fiscal space” to do so.
The MOU states that pension restoration is being approached in 2 phases with the start date being June 2018 and linked on the availability of funds.
It pointed out that Pension will be afforded to all eligible officers who have been appointed on a definitive basis from and including April 4, 1983 and that Pension and Gratuity for these public officers and members of the disciplined forces, will comprise both Government of Grenada and National Insurance Scheme benefits.
In addition, the minimum pension replacement rate for eligible officers including all members of the disciplined forces, after completing 26.666 years of service will be 70% and for service under 26.666 years, pensionable benefits for eligible officers will be applied on a prorated basis.
The signatories to the MOU held a press conference on Monday to give details of the deal with government.
Those who were present included President of GUT, Lydon Lewis, Senator Andre Lewis, President-General of TAWU, Chairman of the Police Welfare Association, Inspector Simon Douglas, Chairman of the Prison Welfare Association, Faithous James, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Jessmon Prince, Labour Commissioner Cyrus Griffith, and Cabinet Secretary and Leader of the Government’s Negotiating Team, Beryl Isaac.
The Cabinet Secretary gave assurances that all will be done to ensure that this process continues.
“We will not do like in the past and start and stop,” Isaac said, as she saluted all participants for their dedication to the process.
The TAWU boss pointed to the fortitude of many pensioners who can now look forward to a silver lining behind the dark cloud over their pensions.
Lewis said: “We all know what our members outside there, those who have retired and do not know what would be happening to them in terms of their pension, now, at least we have moved from uncertainty and away from wondering if we would ever see a pension to now addressing when will it be and that’s a significant step”.
However, he warned that “we must not lose sight (and) drop our guard, but we must focus on what is in the best interest of our members and the country as a whole.”
GUT President Lydon Lewis implored upon union members to be patient with the process which will take some time to conclude in the best interests of all concerned.
“This process will breed a level of expectation,” however, he said, “we want to impress upon our members that it is a process and that the money would not start flowing immediately.
“We are hoping that by June this year we would complete all the necessary ground work and from there government and the unions will again engage as to when”, he remarked.
ACP Prince of the Gazetted Officers Association noted that “coming from a state of hopelessness to a state of hope this (development) would rest very well with all of us.”
His colleagues from the Police and Prison Welfare Association(s) also expressed gratitude on the long-anticipated step towards pension restoration for public officers.