THE GAWU’s attention was drawn to Mr Lincoln Lewis’ column of July 25, 2021 which appeared in the Village Voice newspaper. The columnist addressed several issues, however, we find it necessary to speak to Mr Lewis’ allegation of monies from the Consolidated Fund used to support the pension fund of sugar workers. We wish to advise the columnist that it appears he was misinformed as there is no instance, to the best of our knowledge, where State funds were, using Mr Lewis’ words, ‘injected’ into the sugar workers’ pension funds.
In a nutshell, the sugar industry has two pension funds. There is a contributory pension scheme for salaried staffers and an ex-gratia scheme for waged staffers. In the instance of the ex-gratia scheme, workers receive a pension based on their earnings and years of service whereas in the contributory scheme, those workers pension is related to the sum of their contributions. Our union has, for several years, been seeking to have all workers become members of the contributory scheme recognising the obvious advantages. The corporation has thus far not agreed to our request.
In both instances, the pension funds, according to the corporation’s financial statements, are underfunded. Certainly, had monies been injected, as is alleged, the deficit may not have existed. In fact, the Coalition has trumpeted the pension scheme deficit as a rationale to minimise the industry.
The GAWU remains perplexed by Mr Lewis’ continued, misinformed attacks on the sugar industry, the sugar workers, and the benefits they won out of their struggles. It appears to us that the innuendos advanced are nothing more than an effort to stoke divisive flames among our workers and people. This is not a healthy development and such attempts coming from a seasoned trade unionist is more worrisome. The trade union movement is built on solidarity and to this end our union reiterates again our solidarity with the bauxite workers in their ongoing struggles to be treated with respect and dignity as all workers similarly aim.