Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn has complained that there are too many laws governing pensions within the Public Service, suggesting that Government would be better served by an omnibus Act.
He made the call as Upper Chamber lawmakers debated the constitutional amendment which will see the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Auditor General’s retirement age raised from 62 years to 67, with the DPP having the ability to stay on until age 70 if so desired.
Senator Franklyn declared that the current pension regulations put workers at the lower end of the salary scale at a disadvantage when compared to Members of Parliament and other high-ranking officials.
Citing examples, he said: “The Statutory Board Pensions Act says people qualify for their pension after 40 years, and public servants qualify after thirty three and a third years in the service.
“Members of the Barbados Defence Force qualify after 15 years and can retire at 45 years old.
“However, a politician gets two thirds of his salary in pension after 12 years or three terms in office and they qualify for it once they reach 50 years old.
“In the case of the Prime Minister, the moment he or she demits office, they are entitled to their full pension.”
Senator Franklyn contended that those who provided essential services should be given the option of receiving their pensions early given the nature of their work.
“Qualified candidates like police officers, fire officers and prison officers should get the option to go home early on full pension.
“In my view, you should not have these people work till they are 67 unless they want to and they are fit. If soldiers get their full pension after 15 years at age 45, why not the police or prison officers or firemen?
“It is time we put one Pensions Act in place that covers everybody.”
Senator Franklyn expressed concern that Transport Board bus drivers did not receive any kind of gratuity after their years of service, only receiving their final salary when they leave. He accused Governments over the years of making changes to laws that truly ensured public servants and their families were taken care of.
“There was something called the Widows and Orphans Pension, and two per cent of the public officer’s salary went towards this.
“In cases where civil servants died in office, their widow and under age children or children in tertiary level institutions used to get a pension.
“The Barbados Labour Party administration decided to put this under the National Insurance Scheme in 1980, and it was abolished for public officers but retained for MPs, judges and Governors General.”
Regarding the constitutional amendment, he noted that it was not entirely clear whether the change in retirement age applied to the current holders of the posts or whether it would come into play for future office-holders.
To illustrate his point, Senator Franklyn said: “In 2004 when the retirement ages were first raised, public servants were told their retirement age was the same, but they could choose to stay on until they got older if they wanted.
“At other times option forms were given, but there is no such clause in this amendment.”