I had every intention of staying away from politics during the current election campaign. However, after hearing the concerns of a few friends of mine, who happen to be Democratic Labour Party supporters, about the employment prospects of some government ministers, in the event of a change in government, I have decided to put their minds at ease.
Their concerns were that: it isn’t fair to remove the present crop of ministers because they were dealt a bad hand from inception; and many of them did not have professions to enable them to fit comfortably back into private life, after piloting this country through such rough times. My friends were of the view that the Opposition candidates were mostly professionals and did not need the jobs. All I tried, I could not convince them that their fears were misplaced. I would now like to share my views with the wider audience afforded me by the Nation.
Most importantly, all elected members of parliament know that they were literally employed, by the electorate, on a five year contract, renewable at the voters’ pleasure. Ordinarily that means the voters would renew parliamentarians’ contracts after satisfactory performance.
It is noteworthy that this same administration has put in place the Employment Rights Act which allows an employer to fairly terminate a worker, without a cent in compensation, for poor performance. As practised locally, it does not matter that employee could have had a number of years of good service prior to the subject poor performance.
In the case of politicians in Barbados, they have no reason to fear dismissal without compensation, whether their performance is good, bad or ridiculous. Believe it or not, after this less than stellar performance, the Prime Minister, in the event that he ceases to hold that office even if he becomes part of the Opposition, is entitled as of right to a pension for life. At current rates of salary, he is entitled to a full pension of $11,287.53 per month. And if he chooses, he can opt to receive a gratuity of $423,282.50 and a reduced pension of $8,456.65 per month.
After eight years service, the other ministers and parliamentary secretaries qualify for retiring benefits from fifty years of age, as shown in the table below:
Minister. $4,761.94. $238,096.88
(After 8 years service)
Minister. $6,349.25 $317,464.50
(After 12 years’ service)
Parliamentary Secretary $4,622.70. $231,134.81
(After 8 years’ service)
Parliamentary Secretary $6,163.58 $308,179.17
(After 12 years’ service)
Also, in addition to the above, politicians are entitled to another pension when they attain an age to qualify for the National Insurance pension, which can be as early as sixty years of age. It is clear that these individuals are set for life, and there is no reason to fear that they would go hungry.
The people of this country should worry less about the quality of life of politicians after retirement and spare a thought for police officers, firemen and Transport Board drivers among other persons who give full time public service. But I want to make a case for the three categories of persons that I have mentioned who are required to do hard physical labour and should also be allowed to retire early on full pension as well.
Members of parliament qualify to receive their pensions at fifty years of age. On the other hand, these same politicians over time have gone to parliament and increased the retirement age for other public servants to sixty-seven. Now just imagine, a 66 year-old policeman pursuing and trying to apprehend a fleet-of-foot 20 something year-old suspect. Also, what about the 66 year-old fireman with arthritic knees running up a ladder attempting to save someone from certain death.
We must ask ourselves if it fair and what is so special about desk-bound politicians that they can receive their pensions and gratuities at 50 and police officers and firemen have to wait for a further seventeen years?
However it seems that everyone has forgotten about Transport Board drivers. They are also required to work until 67 years of age. Unfortunately for them, they are the only public workers that are not entitled to a pension or gratuity from their employer. When they reach retirement age, they receive their last weekly pay cheque and go home.
This country must stop deifying politicians and do the right thing by all workers.