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PM stresses urgency of pension reform

Monday, July 17, 2017

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that urgency must be placed on settling the issue of public sector pension reform.

Acknowledging concerns expressed by trade unions relating to the five per cent increase in contributions by workers, Holness noted that failure to reform pensions will result in a “major crisis on our hands.

“I cannot overemphasise that point. In 1990 the pension bill of the Government was 0.4 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Today it has more than quadrupled. It is now two per cent of GDP,” he said.

The Prime Minister was addressing delegates in the public session of the Triennial General Assembly of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) at the Wolmer's High School for Boys in Kingston on Saturday.

It was held under the theme, “New World of Work…New Type of Representation”.

Holness informed that the Government must find a costly $34.5 billion to meet pension expenses and reiterated the need to pass the Pensions (Public Service) Act of 2017 and the Constitution (Amendment) (Established Fund) (Payment of Pensions) Act 2017.

“The pension bill is growing…It is absolutely important that we get the Bills passed. The end result will be to the benefit of you the workers and the country,” he said.

The Bills, which have already been passed by the House of Representatives earlier in the year, are now before the Senate.

In addressing other issues, Holness pointed out that trade unions will have a critical role to play in the Government's process of divesting State assets.

“Once we start to shift assets over to the private sector…the unions have to be vigilant to ensure that the best deals are struck for the workers,” Holness said.

Chief Technical Director in the Labour and Social Security Ministry, Damion Cox, who read remarks on behalf of the Minister Shahine Robinson, said the BITU must continue to advance the decent work agenda, with emphasis placed on social justice, equality, fairness, and security in the workplace.

A charge was also given for the BITU to not only defend those who are members and in the formal sector, but to consider the interests of the non-union members and those in the informal sector, who conservatively account for 40 per cent of GDP.

For his part, BITU President Senator Kavan Gayle said the new world of work is being defined in relation to globalisation, technologically led innovation, economic policies, and the competitive nature of businesses, which “drastically transforms jobs and the labour market”.

Gayle noted in that regard, the BITU and other trade union movements must be innovative and forward thinking in the way workers rights are defended and protected.

During the public session of the assembly, a number of resolutions were passed, including those relating to gender equality, housing solutions and pensions for hotel workers.

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