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Pension reform: Two-stage process agreed; Government insists benefits will accrue to new generation of Public Service

Posted: Friday, March 3, 2023. 1:42 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: There has been a meeting of the minds between the Joint Union Negotiating Team (JUNT) and the Government on the pet project of the moment for the latter, reform of the pension scheme set up for public officers and teachers.

As explained by Minister of Education and Government negotiator Francis Fonseca, “We agreed in principle that we would approach pension reform in two stages really. First, the government would implement a new pension scheme if you like for new entrants into the public service and we’re aiming to do that effective around July 1st. Obviously, there’s a process that leads up to that, we’ll have to prepare legislation and everything and we undertook to consult with the union to share that with them and have a discussion with them on that. And then of course we have to have a much tougher discussion in phase two about the long-term sustainability of the pension scheme and what changes would have to be made to the existing scheme that would affect public officers in the system now. We agreed that we would set up a working group that would tackle that issue so no decisions were made about phase two, we would set up a working group that would work through that issue over the next few months then that working group would come up with specific recommendations about how we could proceed with respect to phase two.”

Fonseca added that new entrants to the Public Service are forewarned that these will be their terms and conditions.

For the unions, which insist they would prefer that existing workers not have to pay in for pensions, Public Service Union President Dean Flowers is for the moment satisfied that the scheme will not be “one size fits all:” “The government has recognized that they need to look at the existing public officers in the system versus those new in the system. No plan, no decision, no scheme – nothing has been proposed. Those will be forthcoming from the government side and then we will take those to our membership for them to look at and for them to modify, enhance or agree to.”

Fonseca added that the unions know the current structure is unsustainable and that the Government is thinking beyond its current term of office, relieving future Governments of the burden of finding funds to pay off retired public officers at the end of their service.

In related news, a handful of teachers appeared outside the House of Culture on their lunch break to “show solidarity” at the invitation of union executives with the JUNT. They told reporters that they have been living “from paycheck to paycheck” while still expected to solve problems large and small in their classrooms and job sites.

 

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