Retired cops say Gov’t owes them $1.7 billion in pension payments

THE Jamaica Police Federation is demanding answers from the Government over an estimated $1.7 billion owed in pension payments to 387 retired officers, some of who served the constabulary for more than 40 years.

According to the federation, it has since December of last year written to the Ministry of Finance seeking clarity on the issue but says to date it has not received an acknowledgement that the letter was received.

“This seems to be, sad to say, a trend from the Ministry of Finance because as we speak we are still awaiting a response in relation to outstanding pension benefits that retirees are owed for which we have written to the minister of finance and would have copied elsewhere, and to date we have not even received acknowledgement of that letter.

“That letter was sent off from as early as the 12th of December 2020 and we are still awaiting a response,” chairman of the federation Corporal Rohan James told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“These persons are being affected because their pension benefits were inappropriately calculated by the Ministry of Finance. There is a component that was supposed to be taken into consideration, which was never factored in the calculation and as as result the membership went home with less than the sum total that they were so entitled to,” Corporal James explained.

“It has been affecting members from as far back as 2006; the 387 that I quoted would be merely what we have already done our due diligence on. I am very sure that the [final] figure is far more because it predates 2006,” the federation head told the Observer.

Asked why the issue has gone unaddressed for so long he replied, “It is that very question we are seeking answers to and we are hoping that the Government will appropriately respond and for the situation to be treated with urgently, owing to the fact that our membership [has] served this organisation and the country at large and given their life. It is important that we recognise the sacrifice that they have made and that we rise to the occasion and remunerate them because this is their savings that they would have contributed towards.”

Added Corporal James: “The police were always contributors to the pension fund and I believe that they ought not to be short-changed when it comes on to their benefits. It’s not as if we are just coming into the pension fold; we were at all times, by virtue of the Constabulary Force Act, contributors to our pension fund.

“Some would have served up to 42 years, and this doesn’t only affect rank-and-file members who would have retired; it also affects senior officers too,” he pointed out.

In the meantime, he said the federation is seeking also to ensure that the Government sees to it that the members who have passed have their estates compensated.

“We are hoping that our employers will seek to, at least, appreciate and respect the laws that have been enacted and for the necessaries to be done and for people’s rights and entitlements [to] be respected and honoured,” he said.

The police a re, in the meantime, still waiting for the Administration to respond to a letter reflecting an outright rejection of the 2.5 per cent salary increase offer sent off from the first week of May.

“We wrote to them acknowledging the receipt of their communication and their offer, and we also wrote to them and indicated our position of refusal, and that we are now awaiting that formal invitation for us to sit at the negotiating table to address the items of our claim,” the federation head said yesterday.

He said while the federation did not give the Administration a timeline on how long it was prepared to wait for negotiations to begin, “based on what is happening in our economy, the constant erosion of our spending power and the impact on our membership; we are holding that this Government will expedite the process so that we can bring about an amicable resolution”.

“We are hoping to hear from them before the month is out and if not we will pen another letter because we intend to pursue diligently our package, so to speak,” James said.

The 2.5 per cent offer represents an incremental offer promised by the Government in light of a one-year delay in implementing a new public-sector compensation structure.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke, who tabled the 2021/22 Estimates of Expenditure at Gordon House in February, said that, given the massive impact of the coronavirus pandemic the Government did not have the resources to begin the implementation of the new wage structure as well as finance the country’s economic recovery at the same time.

This has, however, has not gone down well with the police who have decided to push for better wages in the 2021/22 fiscal year.

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