NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Better off being temporary
I AM BECOMING PARTICULARLY DISGUSTED to hear local trade union leaders constantly mislead public servants, with promises to pursue long overdue appointments.
They seem to be unaware that permanent public service appointments, with the exception of judge, Director of Public Prosecutions and Auditor General, now serve no useful purpose.
As the law is currently being applied, resulting from the Caribbean Court of Justice’s 2009 ruling in the Winton Campbell case, a person who is appointed, in the public service, can be sent home by a stroke of the pen of the minister with responsibility for the public service. In any such case, the officer would go home with just his last month’s pay and any accumulated vacation pay, until he/she reaches 60 years of age or sooner dies. That appointed officer would not be entitled to severance pay or National Insurance unemployment benefits.
On the other hand, in the event of termination, a temporary officer who had been employed for two years but less than ten years would be entitled to National Insurance unemployment benefits for 26 weeks and a form of severance pay, in accordance with section 8A of the Pensions Act.
Temporary officers who had been employed in excess of ten years are not entitled to severance pay but they are entitled to unemployment benefits, which is still slightly better than their appointed colleagues.
It is therefore reasonable to ask: Why are union leaders campaigning to get temporary officers appointed, thereby placing them in a worse position? The simple answer is that those leaders have not kept up to date with developments that adversely affect their members. If they had, they would have realised that the CCJ’s ruling has placed temporary officers with less than ten years’ service in a more advantageous position than appointed officers. Union leaders’ focus should be fixing that absurdity.
In my opinion, the CCJ’s ruling which requires permanently appointed public officers to wait until they reach 60 years of age for compensation, in the event of the abolition of their posts, is erroneous. Between 1947 and April 2009, whenever a permanently appointed public servant lost his job, as a result of the abolition of his/her post, the officer was paid a pension provisionally until such time as Government found a suitable alternate job. If the person refused the job, the pension would be suspended until the person’s normal retirement date.
Unfortunately, the CCJ has applied a 1975 amendment to the Pensions Act, which was intended to store the pensions of persons who voluntarily left the service before retirement age, to persons who were effectively made redundant.
We are now seeing a situation where Government can abolish posts of permanently appointed workers, and send them home without a cent to wait until they reach 60 years or sooner die, to receive compensation. But worse yet, union leaders are promising to fight Government to put workers in that position. It would appear that madmen are running the asylum.
Caswell Franklyn is the general secretary of Unity Workers Union and a social commentator. Email: [email protected]