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Union wants pension for 100 railway workers

Balford Henry
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

PLANS by the Government to separate more than 200 workers from their jobs at the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) could hit a snag as there appears to be a dispute brewing over whether or not 100 of the affected workers should be paid a pension.

General secretary of the Union of Schools, Agricultural and Allied Workers, Keith Comrie, told the Jamaica Observer that the union would not accept anything less than these workers being paid a pension.

"They are permanent workers with over 10 years' service and they are paid salaries similar to those paid to civil servants and we think they should qualify for pension. We will accept nothing less," he said.

The Government has said that these workers do not qualify for civil service pension.

Comrie was responding to the disclosure by the Government that it will be closing down its passenger rail service today, and making the jobs of the employees redundant. The more than 200 workers include 70 temporary employees who were added last year for the Bog Walk to Spanish Town leg, as well as another 140 — mostly permanent workers — who had been employed by the railway for several years. They include engineers and linesmen.

Comrie was also concerned about the ability of the JRC to find funds to make redundancy payments to the workers.

The JRC has proposed to pay the temporary workers two weeks' notice pay plus any outstanding leave entitlements due to them. However, Comrie said that the union would be insisting that they should be paid six weeks' notice plus leave entitlements.

The union, he said, has asked the Government to delay the redundancies until the end of September, but has not received a response to the request.

Comrie said, too, that the closure of the rail service would affect school children who had enjoyed a subsidised ride on the trains, although the Ministry of Transport and Works and the Ministry of Education had consistently failed to fulfil their obligation to meet the subsidies, which, he claimed, had added to the JRC's financial woes.

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