The Employee Mobility Act passed on 2 November was created to ensure the unhinged movement of public officers from the public service to statutory corporations or the Police Force without losing their years of service which count towards pension benefits.
On Monday Presenter of the Bill, Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith explained that the legislation was amended because of lingering pension concerns. Hon. Smith explained that the concerns warranted that the legislation be amended: “We brought to this House a Bill seeking to allow for the easy movement of workers between the central government that is the civil service, and the other branches of government such as statutory bodies… Since then it was determined that when the Bill was reviewed, that the pension provisions for either the civil servants moving to statutory bodies, or those moving from statutory bodies to civil service was not properly taken into account; and it was decided that amendments had to be made,” Dr. Smith said.
Deputy Premier, and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering in his contribution to the debate said that he is certain that this will not be the last amendment legislators will have to make to ensure that there is smooth transition for civil servants: “This amendment has become necessary because individuals transferring…have these pension issues that needed to be sorted out, and they are not just simple issues, I don’t think we should just make it look like it’s simple. People are coming from a statutory corporation where the pension benefits are much better than they are in central government, and they want to be able to maintain those benefits,” Hon. Pickering stated.
Leader of the Opposition, and Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser said: “I see where this is heading, where you frustrate the individual to the point where they either revert to their position or they just leave the system completely. It is officers who do it, we come here in good faith pass legislations regardless of administration or party affiliation and yet somebody sitting at a desk can find a reason on technical grounds to frustrate the individual whose only objective is to enhance their career or make a better life for themselves, we cannot see all these things.”
Territorial At Large Representative, Hon. Archibald Christian announced that someone with a similar issue went to see him: “As we speak, and debate this morning there is a person that came to see me regarding her situation… She is trying to get the benefits that have been accumulated to her, but there seems to be some issues in the calculation and how those benefits are to be paid to her.”
“I think it is important that we set the framework that takes the personalities out of the equation and apply the law as it relates to persons who deserve the benefits that they should receive. Madam Speaker I don’t think that anyone sitting in an office should attempt to try and determine what somebody should be paid based on something you may know about the person. Let’s not be naïve about the situation. We sometime act in that way. We import our personal feelings on things that should happen when they law says specifically how those things should be applied. Going forward I hope we don’t have those situations where people feel as if they don’t deserve what they work very hard to achieve over their life,” he added.
Eighth District Representative, Hon. Marlon Penn recalled that when the legislation was first brought before the House in 2012 there was a heated discussion on pension and calculation of the pension during the Committee stage of that sitting. “We are now here three years later still trying to address this issue. We need to get this rectified today because there are a lot of employees that have tried to benefit from this legislation and it has been unfortunate that they could not benefit because it hasn’t been enforced since 2012, it hasn’t been assented to,” Hon. Penn added.
The issue of pension in relations to transfer between government and statutory bodies was also of concern for Fifth District Representative, Hon. Delores Christopher in her contributions to the debate. Hon. Christopher recalled her days as a civil servant and said: “Madame Speaker I remember clearly as a civil servant it was an issue among employees as to how they could change their job. Whether they felt stuck, because you had to wait for the 25 or 30 years before you could get out…Madame Speaker in this modern world people can’t do that.”
“Sometimes you find that those who have to ok they don’t want you to move. You feel stuck, you’re not productive as you would like to be; there are areas that you can even enhance the service; and these things are sometime used against the employee to somebody’s whim and fancy. I am glad that we are taking these kinds of approach to rectify the situation, and yes, to make sure that people’s pension counts,” she added.
First District Representative, and Opposition Member, Hon. Andrew Fahie stated that he encountered a situation where a civil servant was having a difficult time transferring to an area where skill was most needed. Hon. Fahie said that the situation of an employee moving from government to statutory body peeves him in consideration of the frustration involved.
“To me you don’t need legislation for that, you just need people with common sense, but common sense aint common. You need people to understand that it is one country that we are trying to build. This has been going on government after government,” Hon. Fahie said.