The leader of the Public Service Union (PSU), Elroy Boucher says that pension reform is very important and should not be slighted by unions representing public sector workers.
“If we give even an inch, this government will impose anything on us,” Boucher told a press conference held by his union in Kingstown last week.
“That is why the unions have to stand firm and their members stand with them. If you think this is merely about a telephone being left with a security, it is beyond that,” he said.
He was referring to the decision of the delegation from the PSU, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union and the Police Welfare Association to not attend a meeting with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Jan. 11 because the police security officer at the Officer of the Prime Minister said they could not take their cell phones into the meeting room.
“And when the unions stand their ground, workers have to stand with them. This pension situation, this pension reform is a crucial issue and I submit to you, this has been on the books for so long and you wonder why the government hasn’t moved so far as to engage the unions in the discussion. It is simply because we will not accept a discussion on the pensions but we will accept negotiations on the pensions.”
The government and the unions have agreed for a need to reform the nation’s pensions system, which currently sees some public servants receiving a total pension that his higher than their salary.
The prime minister has noted that pension reform is a ticklish issue and has said that it could result in a “class war” in SVG.
During his budget presentation last February, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, proposed six options for pension reform.
Boucher, however, said that the prime minister, who has been leading talks with the unions, is not wont to consult in the traditional way.
“Consultation for our prime minister is telling you, informing you. We will not accept that. When they are gone, we are left holding the bag. We are in the mess and we cannot give way to any politician who is trying to make our situation worse while they ride off into the sunset with their fat gratuity and their pension. We have to be vigilant and we have to stand with the unions.”
He said that the unions have been asking the government for the relevant information on pension reform, including from the latest actuarial study of the National Insurance Services.
Boucher said the union had a team set up to look into that issue and the team recently just submitted a report to the union.
The union has decided that it will not make that report public, he said.
“But the government is in possession of the actuarial study that informs the attempt to reform the public service pension system.”
He said that the union asked the government about information regarding this and has gotten nowhere.
“We have gotten no information, no response, nada!”