Still no pension scheme at the Transport Board
In the wake of yesterday’s protest by recently displaced workers at the Transport Board, one outspoken trade unionist has taken issue with the quality of representation being given to the workers there by the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), while pointing out that a long promised pension plan is still not in place.
The General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union (UUW), Caswell Franklyn, is of the view that those workers, who are still attached to the Board, should formally part company with the BWU, on account of poor representation.
“These workers have been misrepresented by that union for as long as it was representing them.
I do not know what it is that keeps them tied to the BWU because certainly it could not be the quality of representation offered,” Franklyn told Barbados TODAY.
He charged that, over the years, the BWU had used the Transport Board Division as “a show of strength” during industrial disputes.
“The BWU would pull out divisons such the Transport Board and the Port Authority, which are seen as essential services, but they have not done anything for the Transport Board workers,” the outspoken trade unionist claimed.
Franklyn also took a swipe at some of those employed at the Board, saying “they liked the idea of hobnobbing with the hierarchy of the BWU, and that was good enough for them. They did not need anything more.”
His comments come in the wake of yesterday’s noisy protest by over a dozen former Transport Board employees, who have been waiting five months for their severance.
Recalling that a pension scheme was promised by the late Prime Minister David Thompson after the Democratic Labour Party’s 2008 election victory, he said the Transport Board was the only statutory corporation that still does not have a pension plan in place.
However, Franklyn said he had actually contacted an insurance company to look at a proposal to set up a private pension plan for workers who are currently employed there.
“I cannot do anything for the people who have already left, other than to tell them how to get their severance pay. I have spoken to the company and what they are trying to do is to have a pension plan for the Transport Board workers who have none,” the UWU leader said.
He pointed out that Transport Board workers were essentially “blue colour workers” and they were treated as such while the society provided pensions for politicians and other “white colour workers”.
In the case of local politicians, he noted that in addition to their National Insurance pension, they also get a pension from the House of Assembly, “plus based on [their] earnings [they] can provide for a separate pension plan”. However, he said drivers at the Transport Board, “who have many lives committed in their hands every day”, do not have “any chance of benefiting from early retirement benefits”.
In the absence of such arrangements, many were forced to continue working long after the age of retirement when in fact “drivers should be allowed to retire at a specific age and not allowed to continue working with chronic diseases.
“They can endanger the lives of commuters, especially in the hilly districts of the country. These drivers cannot retire because they are only entitled to a National Insurance pension,” he said.