Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Early retirement packages now being offered to civil servants

Published:Sunday | January 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Oneil Grant, president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association

The Government has started to introduce its planned early retirement programme in the public sector, with workers at the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) among the first to be targeted.

But with several unanswered questions, the JLS employees have reportedly sought more and better particulars from the Ministry of Finance.

The Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), which represents the majority of civil servants, said some members have raised concerns about aspects of the retirement packages, even though thousands of workers are looking forward to it.

"The workers being targeted are those between 50 and 59 years, but we would have wanted the span to be even wider to, say, from 45 to 59 years," O'Neil Grant, president of the JCSA, told The Sunday Gleaner late last week.

"You should also know that police, teachers and correctional officers are not involved in this offer because they are considered essential services, and should there be a heavy uptake it will raise issues of national security, especially with the police and correctional officers. But the police are leaving anyway," added Grant.

The Government underscored its commitment to begin the early retirement of some civil servants this fiscal year with the allocation of $983 million to cover this cost in the First Supplementary Estimate of Expenditure tabled in Parliament last December.

Excess numbers of some government departments and agencies are being targeted, but Grant argued that that has its challenges.

"When they go the positions are abolished. So the challenge with some of the agencies is that when they go they can't activate those posts again. So persons who might be eyeing posts for promotion will not be able to do that, so that's a concern that members have," said Grant.

He noted that civil servants are being offered incentives to accept the early retirement but will lose the benefits if they reapply within a five-year period.

According to Grant, those persons seeking to be employed on contract could face challenges as the posts will be abolished.

He charged that permanent secretaries are being told to make savings of at least 15 per cent of those retired, if key positions must be refilled.

"When the programme starts in 2018 they (government departments) have one year until 2019 to begin their succession process. The programme should come to an end in April 2019, during which time retraining and reskilling and other kinds of succession planning must be done, including identifying individuals for some of the key positions that needs to be retained," said Grant.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced last March that the early retirement scheme would be offered to public-sector workers over a one-year period as part of the administration's efforts to cut the public sector wage bill, as stipulated in the agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com