Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2021. 1:49 pm CST.
By Benjamin Flowers: Today, the Belize City Council (CitCO) explained, in detail, its plans to retire more than 50 of its employees by the month of October, in a move to ensure that payouts upon retirement do not exceed what the council can afford.
CitCO issued a statement explaining that the retirement plan, which affects every employee aged 55 years and older, at all pay scales including management, and across all Council departments, will be done in three phases. The first phase will affect 21 employees, who are all over the age of 60; the second phase, beginning in August, will affect 22 employees, most of whom are between ages 57 – 59; and the final phase, which commences in September, will affect 10 employees between ages 55 – 57.
The council noted that the majority of its employees who have surpassed the legal retirement age are from the Operational Support Department as Maintenance Workers who were previously employed with private sanitation companies under contract with the city.
“While we understand that there may be some that are not financially prepared to retire at this time, any further delay increases council’s liability and creates an untenable situation. We also recognize that many of our aged employees find it difficult to cope with their assigned duties,” CitCo said.
The council said that the plan was explained to the Christian Workers Union (CWU) and that following the completion of the third phase, retirement will be addressed on an annual basis.
For context, the council explained that when it assumed office in 2018, there were 50 employees who had reached the retirement age and no plan was in place to address the aging workforce. The lack of planning lead to a serious issue with accrued entitlements like gratuity or severance, and the projected increase in monthly pensions, which grew considerably the longer it took to implement a retirement plan.
“By the end of 2021, that number will grow to about 70 employees with gratuity payments estimated at $500,000, and by 2024 that number will increase to approximately 100 employees (about 25% of Council’s workforce) with an estimated gratuity liability of $1.4M,” CitCo added.
The council also stressed that if the retirement plan had been rolled out before 2020, the employees affected would not have qualified for severance payments.
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