Over two dozen former Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) employees are demanding a swift end to “a nightmare”, in which workers claimed their pensions have been illegally withheld from them.
The ex-workers, some of whom have dedicated almost 40 years to the CBC were all victims of last November’s mass retrenchment. They had expected to recoup thousands in gratuity and pension payments through the company’s pension plan, which is disbursed by the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL).
To their dismay, the workers, represented by veteran journalist and former news editor, Peter Thorne have been locked in a seven-month saga over the monies after being told by senior human resource officials at the corporation they would have to wait until age 60 or 65 to recoup the funds.
During a meeting in the Queen’s Park gazebo on Tuesday morning, scores of affected workers gathered as Thorne outlined numerous pieces of correspondence between himself and the CBC, ICBL and the Financial Services Commission (FSC).
He argued that the CBC’s stance was contrary to the Occupational Pension Benefits Act (OPBA) 2003 Cap 350B, which mandates that at age 55, workers could claim their pension once they have worked for three years or one thousand hours at the company.
“We the retrenched CBC workers are no longer prepared to allow an entity to trample our pension rights in clear defiance of the laws of Barbados and we are calling on the powers that be, to wrap up this matter by the 30th of September 2019, affirming our rights to our pension and gratuities as mandated by the laws of Barbados…in line with Government’s pledge to treat workers fairly, justly and humanely,” demanded Thorne.
“Most of the people gathered here have given blood, sweat and tears to the CBC and by extension the people of Barbados. Many of us have been sent home with 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 31 and 36 years, while workers with one, two, three and five years have been retained under a last in, first out rule that appeared brutally flawed and now we are legally due our money, it is being withheld through ignorance of the law.”
According to Thorne, the ICBL has never refuted the workers’ claims to their monies, but said they cannot disburse the funds without the instruction of the CBC. The former editor also said his claims had been acknowledged and affirmed through the FSC, the pension plan’s regulator.
“What we, the retrenched workers of CBC are saying is that since June 1st 2019, CBC has been illegally withholding our pensions and gratuities although we have expressed a written desire to receive our monies and first served notice to them on February 5th 2019, over seven months ago, which is more than adequate notice,” argued Thorne.
“Government cannot be a lawbreaker and a lawmaker at the same time and the Financial Services Commission, as regulator must act with haste in this matter in handing down a declaration affirming the OPBA, however unpleasant it is for the CBC which appears in the dark about an act governing its pension plan which ICBL, the record keeper acknowledges and publishes annually on the backs of CBC pension statements.”
Barbados TODAY was unable to reach ICBL’s pension plan administrator Katrina Hunte. However, Chief Executive Officer Goulbourne Alleyne as well as CBC’s acting General Manager; Sherwood McCaskie offered no comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, according to Thorne, the situation has severely affected the retrenched workers.
“We are contending that in our golden years, when we should be justly reaping the fruits of our labour, we are being treated as if we are pariahs. In six weeks between October and November last year, CBC managed to find the names of more than 100 people who could be retrenched as a matter of urgency,” he contended.
“But after being given more than adequate notice, more than six months later, it cannot process the names of 20 to 30 people whose names are legally due for their pensions?” he asked.
The spokesman said he contacted Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs Senator Lucille Moe on numerous occasions who was “candid, forthright and sympathetic” to their cause. Nevertheless, he publicly implored her to go the extra mile and bring closure to the matter by the end of September.
“This has been a nightmare and a total wake up call for all of us, where we, the retrenched CBC workers, only with the help of our family and friends have been able to maintain our sanity and we are hoping that no workers in Barbados ever have to go through this scenario again. We have bills, mortgages and other commitments and can only hold strain for so long and no more. All reasonable time has passed to resolve this matter, which has been a comedy of errors and a display of mediocrity by CBC and the ICBL,” said Thorne.