Over thirty elderly persons who were former employees at the Guyana Telecommunications Corporation (GTC) protested in front of the Ministry of Finance (MOF) yesterday, appealing for the government to increase their pensions to reflect, according to the Pensions Act, two-thirds of what they would have worked for, and not the across the board $18,000 base that they are receiving.
The pensioners, who had initiated protest action on December 4 in front of the Office of the President, expressed that they have resorted to protest since they have tried all other avenues to ventilate their concerns but were unsuccessful.
President of the Guyana Postal and Telecommunications Union,
Harold Shepherd, who was present at the protest, said that the issue stemmed from GTC (now Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) after GTC was privatized in 1991) former employees who continued to work with the company when it was privatized have not received their pensions based on the salaries they earned, but were given the base minimum pension “regardless of their status within the company when they would’ve been employed”.
From cleaners to managers are receiving $18,000 monthly when, “a technician should have 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 said that he had written to former President Bharrat Jagdeo, President Ramotar, Dr. Luncheon, Winston Brassington and Minster of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh, about the issue, and to date it still remains unresolved. When Kaieteur News in previous articles questioned Dr. Luncheon and the Finance Minister over the issues at hand, both had shifted the responsibility away from themselves.
The company was privatized in 1991 and the letters of transfer would have stated that these former employees’ services would have been “continuous and unbroken” and they would be entitled to all their benefits upon retirement. To date, government has not honoured those letters and we believe that it must be honoured, said Shepherd.
According to Shepherd, those persons who terminated their services with GTC would have been paid their terminal benefits. Those that were age 50 and above in 1991 were allowed to retire if they so desired and they were paid their correct pension and over the years they would have received all the necessary increases. However their colleagues who retired after 1991, are not in receipt of their correct pensions.
“I want to believe that the government would’ve reneged on their agreement on the clause that would’ve stated that these persons, their services would be continuous and unbroken.”
Lloyd Hopkinson, former Engineer of GTC, was one of the employees who decided to continue working with the new company, and when the time came for him to receive his pension he was given the minimum base.
“I had a salary of $165,000 a month. How you can give me 18,000 a month after serving 34 years?” Hopkinson asked.
“Take the General Manager who gets over $600,000 a month, when his pension was calculated in 1990 it was about nine thousand dollars. His pension should have been over $400,000 a month. When he went in to them (National Insurance Scheme) at age 55, they said ‘sir, you getting 9,000… only the minimum government pension is 13000, we will raise you up to 13000. “What kind of baloney is that, we come under the Pension Services Act, we served continuously… in my case I have 34 years, others have over 47 years, so this is why we want them to pay us under the Pension Services Act, not this fictitious money they are giving us” Hopkinson established.
The President of the Telecommunications Union speaking on behalf of the pensioners said that “We believe that it’s high time that government see the people out here. These persons who would’ve served Guyana faithfully and would’ve built the telephone infrastructure over the years. What we as youths are enjoying now would’ve been what they would’ve laboured over those years to build.”
He further said that “Government must ensure that before these people die they must receive their rightful pension because over a dozen of them would’ve died over the years before receiving their rightful pension.”
Speaking on the way forward Shepherd said that “We plan to protest as long as it takes to address this issue.”
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