by Eulana Weekes
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Non-established public workers are set to benefit from a new Gratuity and Pension programme. The Hon. Mark Brantley revealed that an Auxiliary Pension Committee has been formed to finalise a Pension Policy for non-established Workers or Government Auxiliary Workers on Nevis.
Premier Brantley said, “I am pleased to advise that the Cabinet of the Nevis Island Administration has put in place a three-person Auxiliary Pension Committee to finalise a Pension Policy for Non-Established Workers on Nevis and provide urgent relief and greater security to them. The details of this policy will be shared shortly, as we seek to finally bring relief to well over 1,000 Non-Established Workers in Nevis.”
He added, “This plan offering Gratuity and Pensions will be discussed with all Non-Established Workers and shall come into effect on the Island of Nevis on September 1 2022.”
The discussion of pension benefits has been ongoing with some arguing for the financial support programmes to be extended to non-established workers in the Federation. According to Premier Brantley, an intervention by the Federal Government in this matter is yet to come to actualization.
“In an effort to coordinate fiscal policy with St. Kitts, we have waited patiently for guidance from the Federal Government on this critical matter. Sadly, none has come. Notwithstanding that legislation was passed in the National Assembly, over a decade ago. I believe that our hardworking Non-established workers in Nevis have been patient long enough.”
The Government Auxiliary Act was passed in the National House of Assembly a decade ago on May 17 2012 before former Speaker, Curtis Martin. At that time, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party was in Government. The Act relates to the Establishment of a Government Auxiliary Employees Commission, Functions of the Commission, Recruitment of Government Auxiliary Employees, Extension of Pension Plan to Government Auxiliary Employees and Regulations.
Upon the validity of the Act, Government Auxiliary Employees, according to the document, shall become eligible to be members of the Defined Contribution Pensions Plan, provided for in the Pensions Act.
However, on May 17, 2017, under the Team Unity Government, Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris had an inaugural meeting with the Pension Committee to devise a Pension Plan to benefit Non-established Workers. Chief Personnel Officer Torfrida Rochester, during the meeting, gave an overview of the plan for Non-established Workers under the Labour Party’s administration.
Referring to an excerpt from the St Kitts-Nevis Information Service, Rochester stated, “It was promised that the government will undertake to pay the employees three percent until there was a salary review and so, in reality, the three percent would be an interim increase, but the government had promised that it would give a salary increase so that the three percent deduction would be no burden for the auxiliary workers. It should have been at that time upon the increase that the government auxiliaries begin to pay their contributions,” said Torfrida Rochester. “What happened after that is, we went through a series of meetings…and we tried to put something into existence, what could be terms and conditions relating to the plan. We also had meetings to try to do a new Pensions Act to accommodate the new regime and to get some regulations done.”
According to the report dated May 17, 2017, Prime Minister Harris in response to Rochester’s statement said, “It is about a good time as any, that we try to expedite the process to bring this formally into play; and the Cabinet is anxious that we are able by September 01  to be able to make firm determination in terms of an implementation date,”
Fast forward to 2020, Tuesday, March 03, Team Unity held a town hall meeting at the St. Johnston Community Centre. A member of the audience solicited comment from the government on the way forward for Non-Established Workers, as it relates to their benefits.
Dr. Timothy Harris responded, “We are soon to complete the assessment with respect to the regularisation of non-establishment workers with respect to their pensions.”
He informed that “The government when we came to office put a Committee in place assisted by the Actuary, Mr. Osborne to determine the way forward. The committee has more or less, 95 percent completed its work and it is left up to the Office of the Attorney-General to provide a legal opinion on one matter raised by the committee for us to be able to affect that.”
Dr. Harris added, “I want to give the assurance that the government will consider all the factors and indeed two years ago we restored the honorarium payment to all Non-Established Workers and we gave the commitment which we have held through, that until we make a final determination on the matter, the honorarium will be paid every year and we have done so for the last two years.”
Harris further stated, “This year, we certainly will complete this and have that in place in the next few months, the latest. So, we will make a major announcement about fulfilling a commitment that we made to correct the injustice to the Non-establishment Workers,” said Dr. Harris during a 2020 Townhall Meeting.
Considering that the Federal Government is working on a Pension Plan for all Non-established workers in the Federation, WINN FM Spoke to Premier Brantley on Tuesday morning, (May 17) to seek clarification on whether or not the Pension Plan, once it becomes effective in Nevis, will be temporary or fixed.
Brantley stated, ” Once there is a solution at the Federal level, I have no difficulty engaging and seeing what offers the Nevis workers the best possible option, but we have been waiting long enough. The workers are crying out and we need to provide the workers some relief. So we’re excited to move ahead and St Kitts will do what they will do and when they do what they will do, we will look and see what they finally come up with and adjust accordingly, if necessary.”
This is the 10th Anniversary since the Government Auxiliary Act was passed. WINN FM made several attempts to contact Attorney General, the Hon Vincent Byron Jr to get an update on the Pension Plan for the Federation, but the calls were unsuccessful by news time.