Scrutineers will soon become pensionable with the passing of a Bill in the House of Representatives.
Yesterday, the Representation of the People (Scrutineers Pension) Bill of 2022 received full support from the Lower House in an effort to correct what Prime Minister Gaston Browne described as a “gross injustice”.
Browne tabled the Bill explaining that scrutineers (persons who work at various registration offices across the country, and are appointed to observe the conduct of the voting station to ensure it is operating in a free and fair manner), were previously denied a pension because of claims that “they work for political parties and not for the government”.
“The irony about it, they are paid by the government, they are not paid by political parties, and political parties do not have any sustaining type of revenue to pay anyone,” he posited.
He shared that some of these individuals have either retired without a pension or have died.
He blamed the previous administration, the United Progressive Party (UPP), for denying scrutineers a pension back in 2004 when they took office.
“I don’t see how as policy makers we could conscionably allow people to work for 20-something years providing a critical electoral function and then tell them that they are not pensionable. I think it is the godly thing to do to make these amendments,” he remarked.
Opposition leader Jamale Pringle, despite agreeing that the move is imperative, denied his party’s involvement by indicating the Bill was first passed before his party won the 2004 elections.
He referred to the Prime Minister’s claim as “quite hypocritical”.
Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin chimed in exclaiming, “You were in power from 2004-2014 and you did nothing.”
Pringle went on to say that his party put a committee together to discuss the matter and even brought it before Benjamin.
On another note, he called on the government to make provisions for “persons who, because of a shortage of payment, cannot receive a Social Security pension”.
“If they are short by two or three payments, and they can pay it in, just allow them to pay it in and get a pension,” he stated.
According to the Bill, scrutineers will receive a pension just like any other pensioner under the Non-Established Pension Act.
Meanwhile, Parliament agreed to correct another “injustice,” but this time in relation to people who “served diligently in the public service for a period in excess of nine years and six months, but less than 10 years”.
Browne told the House of Representatives that in 2004 the UPP administration “decided to terminate the employment of a number of individuals whom they deemed at the time to be Labour Party supporters”.
“Those individuals were literally on the cusp of completing the 10 years… if they (the) UPP had not curtailed their employment they would be eligible for a pension,” he submitted.
He referenced one man who was around seven days away from qualifying for his pension, but was allegedly terminated because of his supposed affiliation with the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party.
The Finance Minister explained that this amendment to the pension regulations is not permanent, and will have to be retroactive from January 1 2004, applying to only about seven individuals.
That resolution was also passed in the Lower House.