Gov’t given week to engage union on ‘outstanding’ benefits for phone company workers

—before legal action pursued

Harold Shepherd

Pensioners and retirees of the former Guyana Telecommunications Corporation (GTC) and GTT, are threatening legal action against the government if they do not heed calls to pay over pension owed.

At a press conference held yesterday at the Guyana Postal and Telecommunication Workers Union (GPTWU), some of the union executives, who are former workers of GTC and Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT), spoke about the issues that they were facing with getting their accurate pension amounts.

Union President, Harold Shepherd, told members of the media that the press conference was called for them to clarify issues which were raised by Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan. “He would’ve stated that as far as he’s aware, that the Government of Guyana has settled the issues as it relates to the former GTC/GTT employees as it relates to their pension and gratuity benefits”.

Shepherd further stated that from the position of the union, the matter has yet to be resolved and payments are still outstanding. He also called upon the government to comply with the agreement, which was signed between the Government of Guyana and Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN) in 1990.

The union, according to executive member John Skeete, has evidence to support its claim that pensioners did not receive their pension in keeping with the purchase agreement that set out the terms of the pension benefits.

“This saga of this pension issue virtually started over two decades ago and after a series of protest[s] and letters that the union was engaged in with the previous administration and this present one, it wasn’t until 2014 that a petition was made by the union to the parliament with respect to the pension issue”, said Skeete. He subsequently related that the petition was accepted by the government and the opposition when it was recommended that the issue be sent to a special select committee.

Skeete added that in 2018, during the Labour Day celebrations, President David Granger had made a visit to the union’s office and was briefed on the situation. “Having been briefed on what the present situation was with the union and this pension issue, he said that ‘the Ministry of Finance must find the money to pay you all’, those were his comments and he was reminded after there was no further movement on what was said,” Skeete related.

Retired GTT engineer and executive member of the union, David Wallace, in his address at the press conference, said that the government should produce evidence to back their claims that pensioners are receiving their rightful pension. “If the ministry feels or knows to themselves that they have done the correct thing, we would like them to put into the media the names of all the pensioners from GTC/GTT who are receiving their rightful pension, the date they retired and how it is being computed if it is in sync with the purchase agreement,” Wallace challenged.

Wallace added that they would like for the government to also put out to the media and the public the documents that were sent to the union stating that the issue has been rectified. He said that they have not received any correspondence from the Ministry of Finance on the issue.

Union President Shepherd stated that the union will be giving the government one more opportunity to correspond with the union to have the issues resolved before taking legal action. “We’re prepared to take the necessary actions to ensure that this issue is resolved. So we’re giving the Government of Guyana one more opportunity to resolve this issue. As I mentioned, we’re not prepared to wait indefinitely, we expect at least a call from some senior official within the next week or so for us to sit down and have dialogue on this issue. We’ll seek the legal advice, if we have to protest we’ll protest,” Shepherd asserted.

When asked by the media if they were giving the government a one-week ultimatum, Shepherd stated yes.

In 2000, correspondence signed by Head of the Privatisation Unit, Winston Brassington and directed to the Secretary of the Treasury of the Ministry of Finance, highlighted the concerns raised by the Manager of Labour Relations at the then GT&T, who reportedly enquired about the payment of pension benefits to former staff of GTC, which was privatized in 1990, and from which all employee services were transferred to GT&T.

The correspondence noted that according to the Conditions of Transfer of Services from GTC to GT&T, a letter was issued to workers settling their benefits, a condition being that employees would be paid these benefits when they retired from GT&T as though they were in the Public Service under the Pension Act.

 

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