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posted 27 Jan 2011, 10:51 by Gerry Kangalee

Honourable Winston Dookeran 
Minister of Finance 
Level 8, 
Eric Williams Finance Building,
Port of Spain

The National Workers’ Union (NWU) notes that in its zeal to implement failed neo-liberal economic policies, your government has clearly signaled its intention to reduce the pensions of workers who are members of occupational pension plans under the guise of harmonisation.

 On page 39 of the People’s Partnership manifesto it is stated:

Pension laws must be amended to provide for the national and regional portability of pension benefits and for improved pension benefits.

Remove all restrictions and qualifications for people to receive an Old Age Pension and thus every citizen will automatically receive a State-funded Old Age Pension upon the attainment of pensionable age.

 Increase the value of the monthly old aged pension entitlement to $3,000.

Of course the population has already pronounced on the reneging of the promise that “every citizen will automatically receive a State-funded Old Age Pension upon the attainment of pensionable age.” There is not a word about harmonisation of pension plans.

In your budget presentation on 8th September, 2010, you informed the Parliament that:

“The government will…examine the feasibility of moving towards a retirement system involving:

A mandatory employment based system: this system would be entirely funded by employers and employees. It would be similar to the current National Insurance Board Pension, but with the distinction that the self employed would be included...

This is the first in the Government’s thrust towards creating a harmonised pension system which will incorporate public service pensions, the National Insurance Board and Senior Citizens Pensions.”

This is a clear and unambiguous attack on the standard of living of working people who have deferred a significant portion of their wages so that they could enjoy a decent lifestyle when they retire. It is outrageous that your government is attempting to pick workers’ pockets – workers who do not depend on the treasury to fund their retirement, but who have done so themselves.

The trade union movement has not forgotten when former Minister Ken Valley harmonised the NIS Pension with Old Age Pension as a result of which NIS Pensioners who were entitled to receive an Old Age Pension received a smaller amount of Old Age Pension. Harmonisation reduces retirement income. You are clearly attempting to complete the assault on workers income begun by Valley.

If an occupational pension at retirement amounts to $4,000 per month, then with the NIS Minimum Pension of $2000 per month, your total retirement income would be $6,000 per month.

However under your harmonisation scheme occupational pensions will be reduced by the NIS pension and total retirement income would be $2,000 from your occupational pension plus $2,000 NIS Minimum Pension = $4,000 per month; robbing workers of $2,000 per month.

The National Workers’ Union (NWU) calls upon you, in your capacity as Minister of Finance, to renounce the announced harmonisation policy and cease and desist this sustained assault on the income accruing to working people in your reckless quest to implement the neo-liberal policies approved and pursued by the international financial agencies in its futile quest to pull the capitalist system out of crisis. Working people refuse to pay for a crisis we had no part in bringing about. 

Gerry Kangalee,
27 Jan 2011, 10:58