“A number” of Barbadian workers are being punished by the National Insurance Scheme because of their delinquent employers.
And trade union boss Senator Sir Roy Trotman is also calling on the state social security institution to take “much more immediate” action against defaulters who are not paying NIS contributions but yet are prospering financially.
The Barbados Workers Union General Secretary raised these concerns today when the Senate debated and approved and amendment to National Insurance and Social Security Act, which will allow the National Insurance Department an additional three years to recover arrears summarily.
Sir Roy said not only was there instances of workers “not having their own earnings handed over to National Insurance”, but that there were reports of employees being denied benefits because their bosses have defaulted on payments.
“Regrettably, as we speak today, we are receiving reports of a number of people who are denied benefits and that those benefits are denied because the employer is defaulting in contributing the workers money into the Scheme and then the Scheme, having forgiven the employer, punishes the worker,” he complained.
The trade unionists recalled a different arrangement “some years ago”.
“We used… to follow a process that said that as long as a worker was able to show from the records that that worker was registered as an employee, and that was registered as having paid that workers initial contribution, then the assumption was that since the money was deducted at source that that worker could not thereafter be denied a benefit under the National Insurance Scheme,” he recalled.
He said this was because “it had to be assumed that that worker had had deductions made from his or her wages”.
“It would seem to me that we have to get back to the arrangement. When I actively participated in these discussions I know of many examples and many occasions where we able to have the worker receive that benefit and I would to use this occasion to suggest that we resume that arrangement,” he said.
Sir Roy noted that workers were also being otherwise negatively affected because of their employers’ NIS delinquency.
“The problem is not only in the fact that companies do not make their own approximate 10 per cent contributions to the National Insurance office. The problem is that relatively a similar amount 10 per cent is deducted from the workers earnings and in some cases, unfortunately in far too many cases, that amount of money is not paid over to the National Insurance office,” he pointed out.
“And it is something that ought not to be happening because if the employer was required to pay that money directly to the worker that employer would have no avenue of escape.” Sir Roy said this was taking place in an environment where some companies could afford to pay, but were not.
“And so there has to be a recognition that really whatever we may say about hardships or anything else that cannot in every case be so considered because we know of some people who have (been) running up arrears, waiting for excuses and forgiveness and then proceeding to run up arrears all over again, when there is fairly good evidence that those companies have been doing well and have been able to compete quite well in the market in which they are operating,” he stated.
“It seems to me that something needs to be done not only every three years or so when the actuaries remind us that we are jeopardising the scheme, but there has to be a form of legislation which will permit for action to be taken of a much more immediate nature.” (SC)