Senate Suspends Debate on Tourism Workers Pension Bill

Jamaica News: Debate on the Tourism Workers Pension Act, 2019, was suspended in the Senate on Friday (July 12) to allow for further consultations on a number of matters.

The Bill seeks to establish a defined contribution pension scheme for hospitality industry workers.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., who piloted the legislation, said the Bill was a major game changer for the workers and represents not just a historic development in the Caribbean but the world, as no other country has a comprehensive pension plan for all tourism workers.

“This will make Jamaica a world leader in providing tourism workers social security. It represents a commitment by the government to the social market arrangement which is to ensure that appropriate legislation…is developed to protect the vulnerable,” he stated.

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“Already, we have been getting inquiries from other nations about our revolutionary pension plan,” he disclosed.

Senator Charles Jr., lauded the bi-partisan support which has contributed to the success of the Bill.

“It is not supposed to be a scheme that is attached to any one person. This is a scheme for the people of Jamaica,” he stated.

In supporting the Bill, Opposition Senator Wensworth Skeffrey called for a re-examination of the composition of the board of trustees suggesting that it should include a worker and at least one member from the confederation of trade unions.

He also recommended that a comprehensive public education programme be implemented, so that workers can be informed of the benefits of the programme.

In his remarks, Government Senator, Don Wehby said statistics from the Financial Services Commission (FSC) as at December 2018 showed that only 9.5 per cent of the country’s labour force participated in a private pension arrangement.

“What that is saying is that 90.5 per cent of our labour force is not on a private pension scheme,” Senator Wehby said.

He noted that the legislation is paramount as the tourism sector employs approximately 120,000 people directly while generating another 250,000 jobs indirectly.

“So, we are talking about upwards of 400,000 Jamaican workers (who) will be impacted by the passing of this Bill or one in every four,” Senator Wehby said.

He said the outlook for the sector projects that another 41,000 jobs could be created by 2022. “So, we (are) talking about probably close to half a million Jamaicans in the labour force that will be impacted by the passing of this legislation,” he said.

The Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme is in keeping with the Government’s focus on creating a social security network within the tourism sector. It is one component of a three-point human capital development plan for industry workers, which also includes training and capacity building.

The Pension Scheme is a defined contributory plan supported by legislation and will require mandatory contributions by workers and employers.

The Plan will cover all workers ages 18-59 years in the tourism sector, whether permanent, contract or self-employed.  Benefits will be payable at age 65 years or older.

The Ministry of Tourism, is providing $1 billion to seed the fund so that immediate benefits can accrue to qualified pensioners who have met the vested period of five years.

The bill was recently passed in the House of Representatives.


Source: JIS News

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