Where is my pension?

Regional

Where is my pension?

District constable fuming after being sent on retirement without payment

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 06, 2020

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A 63-year-old Westmoreland man who served as a district constable for 26 years says he and some of his colleagues have been “forced” to retire without any written explanation or compensation and is calling on Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang to address the matter.

Paul Whyte, who was assigned to the Westmoreland Police Division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), told the Jamaica Observer last Thursday that he was sent on retirement on April 30, “without a dime”.

He said, too, that he received nothing in writing to indicate that he has been officially retired.

The “wicked act”, he said, is in stark contrast to a letter he received dated October 31, 2018, which stated that approval had been granted for district constables to retire at the age of 65 and that Whyte was expected to retire on the ground age of his 65th birthday on March 11, 2022.

The letter was signed by one Lois Anderson of the JCF's Area 1 Human Resource Department on behalf of Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson.

According to Whyte, in October 2019 he received a call from the JCF's Area 1 Human Resource Department informing him of a meeting scheduled for later that month to discuss his retirement.

He said at that meeting, he and approximately eight other district constables were told that they would be sent on retirement at the end of April.

In January, he said he received a letter communicating same, but since then he has not received further written communication that he had officially retired as a district constable or the way forward.

The letter, dated January 24, 2020, signed by Anderson, said approval was being sought for Whyte to be retired on the grounds of age in accordance with the Pensions (Public Service) Act, 2017.

It said that the JCF acknowledged his contribution and hoped the new phase of his life would be adventurous with an abundance of good health.

He was also told that retirement documents would be prepared and that he would be notified once the processing of his retirement benefits is completed.

“I surrounded my life and plans around age 65 because I owe loans like NHT (National Housing Trust) and so on. Now they force us to retire at age 63 and up until now, nobody look at us. We [are] not getting any salary. They did not publish that we are retired and they stop paying us. If we retire we [are] supposed to get pension the month after,” Whyte stated.

“Believe me when I tell you, madam, I am suffering; suffering bad. We're police officers and it's hand to mouth from the start. It not even reach mouth — hand to shoulder, and we are getting nothing, nothing whatsoever for the last three months,” the man added.

He said several attempts to reach personnel at the Ministry of National Security have failed as the calls went unanswered.

Whyte said that he has also contacted United District Constables Association President Damion Pryce but was told nothing pleasing.

“I spoke with him and all he's doing is promising, promising, promising that he will do this and he will do that and he never does,” Whyte claimed.

On Thursday, the Observer contacted Pryce, who said that there was nothing the association could do to assist the rural policeman.

“The association really can't do anything about that. That has to do with the reform of the pension; the public service pension scheme. It is what it is and they are retiring the older district constables so that they can effectively put the platform that would see more district constables being appointed. So that's what they are doing, which means automatically older district constables will be sent home,” Pryce said.

“We know he did not plan for it (retirement) but with the public service pension scheme that's what it does. There's nothing the association can actually change. It's happening right across Jamaica,” Pryce explained.

District constables are classified as public servants according to the Constables (District) Act.

The reform of the public sector pension system which Pryce referred to was born out of the recognition that the system had become fiscally unsustainable, rendering it unaffordable. This meant that because the Government's expenditure was in excess of the revenues collected, money had to be borrowed from various sources to finance the gap between revenues and expenditure. This resulted in a high level of debt to GDP ratio.

As a result, effective April 1, 2018, public sector workers under the Government of Jamaica Pension Scheme began contributing one per cent of their salary, which would gradually increase by one per cent until 2022, when the contribution will be fixed at five per cent.

Prior to this, public sector workers were not asked to contribute to their pension.

Pryce explained that the move to retire older district constables under the the new requirements is to facilitate the appointment of younger district constables who are not yet a part of the scheme.

Pryce said currently, there are far more than the required 2,200 district constables working and the decision to send Whyte and others on retirement is to streamline this process.

Whyte is, however, arguing that the decision is a “cruel” one, especially because he is unable to take care of his daily needs.

“I want to put this out there that other district constables know what is going on and what to expect when their time comes because retirement is for everybody,” he said. “They're not treating us how we should be treated as district constables. They are cruel because we do all the jobs police do and a matter of fact more.”

Asked if he was receiving support from family, he said he has not asked for help.

The father of nine said he does not want to burden his children who have their own issues to deal with.

“So I am asking the minister of [national] security to look at how them treating district constables and see if it is right. I work hard for 26 years to come get nothing,” Whyte stated.

On Friday, senior director in the JCF's Human Resources Management and Development Annette Osbourne responded to an Observer query on the matter, indicating that Whyte was sent on retirement and that his file is currently being audited.

“Once it is okay it will be uploaded to the pension system and his pension will be processed from the Ministry of Finance. So it is being dealt with,” said Osbourne.

She said that a letter was prepared to communicate this to Whyte but she was not sure if he had received it.


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