Former Caves of Barbados employees are being assured that their two-year wait for pension payout is near an end.
The promise has come from chairman of the company Ralph Thorne, KC, amid threats of protest action by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) whose Deputy General Secretary Wayne Walrond on Monday described the delay as scandalous and vexatious.
Thorne informed the 30 retirees that payday is at hand.
“We are presently awaiting the necessary approval for the pension plan from the Financial Services Commission. Thereafter, the necessary administrative matters will include notification to members of their benefit options and we will facilitate a meeting with them to discuss these options. We do not anticipate any unreasonable or extended elapse of time to complete this process,” he told Barbados TODAY as he assured “all parties that this involved process is nearer to its end than its beginning”.
However, he declined to give a timeline for when the payments would be made.
“I prefer to avoid identification of a specific date so as to avoid giving false hope but the retirees can have cause for optimism that they shall soon receive their pensions,” the chairman asserted.
Walrond had contended that the workers had been promised their pensions and gratuities within six months of retrenchment.
He said the union “was not privy as to the reasons why the money has not been paid out”.
However, Thorne contended that the company has always had open and honest dialogue with the former workers, including prior to their retrenchment.
“We conducted this dialogue with them in staff meetings and in meetings with their trade unions, BWU [Barbados Workers Union] and NUPW. We are happy that the BWU and the NUPW have given this matter the seniority and experience of its officials of the highest standing,” he stated.
Thorne reminded that “in keeping with our policy of openness, frankness and diligent attention to their rights”, Caves of Barbados paid the workers their severance when it became due in October 2020.
“We were careful not to prejudice their rights, knowing that they could not simultaneously claim a redundancy payment together with a pension pursuant to retirement. One had to follow the other if they were to be legally entitled to the severance payment,” the Queen’s Counsel reasoned.
“We also made gratuity payments to those who requested early retirement. I am happy that I was able to clarify the foregoing to Mr Walrond when he contacted me [Tuesday night]. We spoke as cordially as we always do,” he recalled.
Thorne said all parties involved in the administration of this issue have taken care to ensure that it is properly dealt with.
“We will continue to press all parties to have this matter concluded. There is absolutely nothing sinister that attends this matter,” the senior attorney stressed.
Meanwhile, Sagicor Life has sought to clear the air regarding claims that it is the insurance firm responsible for disbursing the pension funds but is holding up the process.
“Sagicor is not responsible for the administration of the windup of the Caves of Barbados Pension Scheme and is not in custody of the assets for this scheme,” the insurance company said in an official statement issued on Tuesday to Barbados TODAY. Walrond had contended that even if the pensions are not paid now, the retirees should at least receive an advancement on their gratuities.