Employees of the now-defunct Barbados Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) are pleading with authorities to hand over thousands of dollars owed under a non-contributory pension plan, which has not been paid despite a directive from the High Court.
The approximately 24 workers, some of whom are well over the age of 70, are now seeking an enforcement order from the court in a desperate attempt to secure their entitlements before they die.
In 1994, the now-defunct BADC was merged with the Barbados Marketing Corporation (BMC) into the entity known today as the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC).
Thirteen of the BADC employees who were moved to the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) received severance packages during the merger, and were listed as deferred pensioners under the plan. Meanwhile, the 14 who moved to the BADMC were listed as active members. Approximately seven of the expectant beneficiaries are said to be still working with either the BAMC or the BADMC while the others have since retired.
While the BADC had established a non-contributory pension plan dated 1974, in collaboration with Sagicor Life Insurance Company Limited, for salaried employees, the BMC had no such plan. When the two entities merged, the BADMC suspended the plan in January 2002 without discussing the changes with the workers. Since then, the statutory corporation refused to hand over the accumulated contributions to the employees, resulting in an extended battle that landed in court.
In January, the High Court determined that the proceeds of the disputed pension plan were in essence “deferred remuneration” for services provided to the BADC, and the workers were therefore entitled to the thousands of dollars in contributions made on their behalf.
“The contributions by the [BADC] to the plan were not a gift to the claimants or other members of the plan and neither was it a voluntary payment,” declared the judgment handed down by Justice Pamela Beckles.
“It is true that the claimants did not directly contribute to the pension plan – however, the contributions were earned by past services and therefore… were deferred pensions,” the judgment continued.
According to the claimants, the BADMC, which is charged with disbursing the money, appears to have defied the order as its Board of Directors has reportedly shown no intention to repay the sums that are said to be close to $2 million.
“There were a total of 27 [pensioners] and four of them have died, and it could be more because there are people whose names are not on the list [of pensioners] who say they have certificates for the pension plan. There was another man who died, whose name is not on the list either,” recalled a former employee.
“There is one lady who is 80 years old and she qualified [to receive her pension] from the age of 65, but nothing has been done…. Some people qualified since 2017 and other people qualified since then, but nothing so far has happened and all of them are quite interested in receiving their pensions,” revealed one distraught former employee.
“There is a real feeling that many of the beneficiaries could die without seeing the fruits of their labour. A few of our workers have died in the meantime… and we are starting to wonder whether they just want this matter to die a natural death as well.
“We, the past employees of the BADC, have been trying to get our entitlements. We have qualified for pensions, but we can’t get anything,” she added.
When contacted, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir said he was not aware of the court matter that originated in 2016 under then Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick.
Repeated efforts to reach recently appointed CEO of BADMC Dr Brian Francis and Finance Manager Teaurean Roach on Monday were all unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Kimberley Alleyne-Pinder, who is one of four attorneys representing some of the aggrieved employees, confirmed that an enforcement order was being pursued to have the matter expedited. ([email protected])