A group of 16 retired workers is demanding to know why a statutory corporation and a reputable insurance company are defying numerous court orders in refusing to hand over hundreds of thousands in pension payments owed to them.
In January 2020, the High Court declared that the former Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Company (BADMC) employees were entitled to the proceeds of a statutory pension plan offered to them through Sagicor Life Inc.
But at present, the group that includes at least one person over the age of 80 is yet to receive even an interim payment of approximately $10,000 despite an order on May 11 to deliver it before June 2nd this year. The outstanding payments totalling just over $2 million are owed to approximately 30 former workers, some of whom have already passed away and others, who did not pursue the matter in court alongside their 16 colleagues.
Numerous efforts to reach BADMC acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Frederick Inniss at his office were unsuccessful, and when contacted on Wednesday, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Sagicor Life, Paul Inniss said he could not discuss the issue without the expressed consent of the client.
Meanwhile, Oliver Agard, a former BADMC manager and one of the claimants in the matter, declared that most concerning to him are the entities’ apparent lackadaisical attitude even after seven years of litigation.
“We’ve had a couple of people who have passed away without benefiting from the fund, and it does not speak well for the professionalism of the entities involved. We are asking that there should be closure in this matter. It is not a joke thing. All of us here are pensioners and we need the money so we can get on with our daily lives. So this is a very urgent matter,” Agard complained.
“We are not seeking to degrade or defame any person; it’s just that this matter has been around too long. I’ve left the entity since 1996 and it’s 2021 and we are still battling with a matter that should have been brought to a close ever since, and this is unfair. But this is the level of treatment that is meted out to those who have given their entire life to an organisation,” the retired manager added.
Agard, who was made redundant by the company in 1996, recalled that for many of his colleagues, the job of working on a plantation required them to be on call 24 hours a day and at times included tasks that could be deemed life-threatening.
On May 11, Madam Justice Pamela Beckles issued a consent order between the former employees and the BADMC’s acting CEO for an interim payment of approximately $10,000 to each of the claimants no later than the first week of June.
The BADMC was therefore expected to instruct Sagicor, as holder of the funds, to make the outstanding payments. To date, absolutely no funds have been paid, and it is unclear exactly why.
Barbados TODAY, however, understands that the insurance giant has been served by the Supreme Court and will be expected to account for its actions on July 13th.
For Margery Benn, another pensioner affected by the ordeal, the entire situation has been “baffling”.
“We are baffled by this and bordering on angry. The judge has given an order and these folks seem to have ignored the order, and we are wondering what can be done to get them moving to obey the court’s order and let us have our money,” Been explained.
“We have learnt that Sagicor paid $77 million to five top employees and here we are waiting for what is rightfully due to us and nothing so far and it is nothing near $77 million,” she further contended.
Marion Harte, who retired as Food Development Officer in 2012, still had the pension certificate she received in December of 1988 that declared her pensionable since 2014.
“I am in my 73rd year, and I am not bed up, so I would like to get my money to enjoy before I pass to the other side. Sitting here, I have noticed that three or four of us since we were pursuing this case have passed, and a lot of us are on one leg,” Harte noted.
Sagicor’s General Manager meanwhile revealed that it would be “irresponsible” of him to discuss such matters in the press.
“It would be irresponsible to have that conversation with you unless the BADMC expressly said to me, ‘we give you the right to speak to x about our pension plan’. So, unfortunately, I really can’t comment on that particular situation, not to the press,” Inniss told Barbados TODAY.
In 1974, the now-defunct Barbados Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) established the non-contributory pension plan dated 1974 for salaried employees. In 1996, the BADC merged with the Barbados Marketing Corporation (BMC), forming the BADMC and by 2002, cancelled the plan.
Some of the employees were made redundant during the merger, whilst others continued their employment under the new entity.
Since then, the statutory corporation denied its obligation to hand over the accumulated contributions until January last year when the courts determined otherwise.
The High Court ruled that the proceeds of the disputed pension plan were in essence “deferred remuneration” for services provided to the BADC, entitling the workers to the thousands of dollars in contributions that were made on their behalf.
The claimants are being represented by Alrick Scott Q.C., Wallace Blackman, and Kimberley Alleyne-Pinder.