HarunaThe government has made overtures to labour groups in the country by firmly resolving to pay workers who will go on pension from January 1, 2015 the full lump sum they are entitled to.

In what is expected to make the first batch of beneficiary workers under the National Pension Act 2008 (Act 766) who will be retiring in January next year heave a sigh of relief, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, told the Daily Graphic, ?Every pensioner should be assured that his money is secure and safe. The government remains the guarantor; the government remains responsible and will grant further the payment of those whose retirement benefit is due as of January 1, 2015.?

Labour, in embarking on its strike, had maintained that what was most frustrating about the implementation of the tier-two pension was that the first group of beneficiaries was in the dark as to where to claim their second-tier benefits.

But in an interview in Accra yesterday, Mr Iddrisu said in its quest to ensure that workers were not short-changed but had full access to the exact amounts due them, the government would employ the services of actuaries and other experts in the industry to help with the calculation.

?I can assure you that it will not be to the disadvantage of any employee. They will get better than they would have received under the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) scheme,? he said.

Presently, there are reports that GH?450 million has accrued from the contributions of members of labour groups lodged in a special escrow account at the Bank of Ghana.

NPRA Act amendment

Mr Iddrisu noted that subsequently, the government intended to further amend the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) Act in order to deal with past credit and what would go in as accumulated benefits as part of the broad request made by labour to the government, adding, ?The government agreed that we will do a review of the act to accommodate the concerns that they (labour groups) raised.?

Fund management brouhaha

On labour?s demand that the government allow it to manage its own funds under the tier-two occupational scheme, the minister explained why the government would not heed to that call by the groups.

?The government feels uneasy allowing for employees to manage their own pension funds because of the possible future risk. The government as an employer, sponsor and guarantor is not able to undertake that risk if the four schemes as registered by labour are allowed to be managed by them under their own pension funds,? he said.

According to the labour groups, they had their own occupational pension schemes, which are the Health Sector Occupational Scheme, the Ghana Education Service Occupational Pension Scheme, the Judicial Service Occupational Pension Scheme and the Hedge Master Trust Occupational Pension Scheme, all established with the aim of managing the tier-two funds of the various groups.

But Mr Iddrisu insisted that ?the government is government and if there is anything in the event of the fund not being managed well, as experienced in countries such as Spain, Chile and recently the UK, it stands be to be blamed?.

?As basis for this potential risk tomorrow, we cannot dedicate the management of the fund solely to employees,? he added.

He said, indeed, the law itself contemplated an employer-managed scheme, explaining that ?even the law states that there should be peer competition and that?s why you have SSNIT as the first tier and the second tier thereof?.

?We are happy to have a compromise with them where they are part of the new scheme and their four schemes will play a role, together with a new board, in determining who is a fund manager, trustee and custodian, so that people who are already related to the scheme will not necessarily run out of business because of previous commitments,? he said.

New Board

Mr Iddrisu said the disagreement had centred around the issue of who the majority on the board would be.

?We proposed a five/four and they said they want the five. These are matters we can resolve and I think they acted in bad faith by proceeding on strike and withdrawing their services because we had scheduled a meeting at 3.30 p.m. last Tuesday and we also discussed it at the last tripartite meeting that we should continue with the dialogue on the matter and that the government?s position has since changed,? he said.

Pension Alliance Trust

On the Pensions Alliance Trust (PAT), he said the government was ready to review its position to define the role of the trust, ??a significant departure from what labour had in the last one to two years described as an imposition?.

Effect on govt machinery

Mr Iddrisu expressed the hope that the action taken by the labour groups was not a move intended to ground government machinery.

?The wheels of government will run and run efficiently. We will put in mechanisms to contain the effects if they are not willing to compromise,? he added.



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