– Union not ruling out protest action
In excess of $20 million, in outstanding pension and gratuity benefits, is owed to former Guyana Telecommunication Corporation (GTC)/Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) workers. And according to the executives of the Guyana Postal and Telecommunication Workers Union (GPTWU), together with the GTC/GT&T Pension Association, which represents the more than 100 affected workers, a road protest is not being ruled out if remedial
action is not taken.
Speaking at a media conference held at the GPTWU’s East Street, Georgetown, headquarters, yesterday, President Harold Shepherd, said that the Union has been making representation on behalf of the pensioners as early as 2003 to no avail.
But according to him, “we will leave no stone unturned as it relates to this issue” even as he expressed optimism that “good sense will prevail whereby Government will come to the realisation that they owe the former employees…”
“These employees have given their sweat and tears to build the telephone industry in this country and we hope that we would not be forced to take to the road in protest,” Shepherd added. He disclosed that the former employees are currently agitated enough to do whatever is necessary to be adequately compensated for their years of service.
The media conference had in fact preceded a meeting between the representing bodies and scores of the aggrieved pensioners with a view to ascertaining the next move in order to realise payment of the outstanding monetary benefits.
According to Shepherd, the daunting situation had its genesis in 1990 when moves were made by the then Government to privatise the GTC. At the time, he said, the workers were each issued with a letter stating “you will be continued in employment with GT&T and your service will be treated as continuous and unbroken and the other conditions of service will not be less favourable than what you presently enjoy.”
And based on that agreement, it was understood that the former employees, upon retirement from GT&T, should have received their pension and gratuity from the present Government through the Ministry of Finance, in keeping with the Pension and Corporation Acts.
“Nevertheless, they (former workers) find themselves presently just receiving their gratuity as at December 1990, without interest, and the Government minimum pension of $18, 000 per month across the board,” Shepherd disclosed yesterday.
He explained that an affected former technician for instance should have currently been receiving a monthly pension of at least $50,000, while a former Manager should have been the recipient of way over $100,000 per month.
Shepherd disclosed too that GTC had put in place a pension plan for its employees, but for some reason, following the privatisation, the employees did not benefit from that plan.
“I don’t know what arrangement was put in place (subsequently)…but the money was never transferred in terms of a pension plan for the workers,” Shepherd revealed.
This development, according to him, is not only seen as “unjust” by the affected workers but “grossly inadequate” as most of them would have served in excess of 10 pensionable years with GTC in varying capacities.
Moreover, the situation that obtains is that “…retired senior managers, supervisors, janitors, technicians, labourers, among others, are all getting the same minimum pension,” according to the GPTWU President.
It was in light of this situation, Shepherd said, that the Union had in 2004 engaged then President, Bharrat Jagdeo, in an effort to bring a resolution to the matter. However, he disclosed that the terms of a resulting draft agreement was not in keeping with the expectations of the former GTC employees, since Government was merely prepared to pay the gratuity as at the year 1990, and the bare minimum.
In its continued effort to have the situation addressed, Shepherd said that the Union, over the last five years, has written letters to the former President, the current President, Donald Ramotar, and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, in an effort to bring a resolution to this matter. However, all efforts, according to Shepherd, have failed to gain the desired results.
Notwithstanding, he noted that the contention of the Union, the Pensioners’ Association and the former GTC staff members, who are still within the employ of GT&T, is that the computation of their terminal benefits must include their years of service with GT&T combined with that served with GTC.
This is essential, Shepherd said, in order to arrive at the former workers’ true pensionable benefits which will reflect a move towards achieving at least two-thirds of the maximum pensionable emoluments, in keeping with the Pension and Corporation Acts.
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