CWU accuses SSB chair of inciting negative public sentiments against workers

The Social Security Board staff is in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, which includes salary increases and benefits. Negotiations have not been going very well for staff members and the board’s counter proposal has not been anywhere near what the staffers are asking. Over the weekend, the media  caughtvlcsnap-2015-07-01-13h24m09s90 vlcsnap-2015-06-22-20h56m28s207up with Chair of the Social Security Board,  Doug Singh who says the board is primarily concerned with the ability of the organization to increase pension to pensioners as, ultimately, the Social Security fund are for the people who contribute. Singh said that  ultimately the board of directors are there to safeguard the fund and to look after the interest of the beneficiaries. The staff is there at the mercy of structure and ultimately we have to set priority where priority is supposed to be and we are going to look at pension benefits for pensioners and we are going to give that priority above any increases under the collective bargaining agreement.”   . Well, the Christian workers Union has taken issue with that statement and in a press release this evening said that “The Chairman failed to disclose to the media that the Board of Directors of the Social Security Board has approved and received for themselves in excess of a 150% increase on their allowances since their tenure. Also, it has failed to indicate that staff benefits have never been tied to SSB pensioner’s benefits.” Late this evening, Dough Singh issued an email statement in which he says,  “The BOD compensation was restructured to eliminate an annual bonus and to reflect the assessment of income tax against the board fee,  the net increase was therefore minimal. Such adjustments were approved by the Minister of Finance.

Additionally, there was no increase to the Chairman’s allowance.” Chairman Singh also said to the media on Sunday:   “I will say here now and I think I am doing so in the best interest of negotiations, the Board was presented at its last meeting with a proposal for an increase in pension or pension benefits under the employee pension program and it’s substantial. My calculation it’s about 16%. The Board had set a signal clearly at the end of that meeting that it won’t even consider that until it is first able to consider pension increase to pensioners.”  CWU’s response to that is that “It is totally not true that the CBA seeks an increase in pension for employees. There is a staff Pension Scheme operated by Social Security Board, under its own legal documents not addressed in the CBA. Both Staff and SSB contribute to this Pension Scheme, which is managed by a Board of Trustees and it is this Board, which has nothing to do with the CBA, CWU or these negotiations that has recommended that the Social Security Board of Directors consider a raise to the existing only four (4) Pensioners under that Staff Pension Scheme. SSB is the Settler in this Scheme. However, it is not a 16 % raise as insinuated by the Chairman. Any increase if and when it is considered by the Board of Directors of SSB will be an increase to those retired SSB Staff/Pensioners and is in no way connected to the present negotiations.”  In his statement this evening, Singh said that  While their release seeks to divorce benefits under the CBA from other benefits such as increase in Pension under the employee pension program, that cannot practically be the case, benefits are benefits and the board has no intent to treat them independently.”

According to the CWU statement, SSB Chairman, Doug Singh, seems intent in raising negative public sentiments against the workers and providing misleading and inaccurate information. CWU also contends that Singh’s comments were made just after the Negotiating Team of SSB at its first negotiating session tabled the request that there be a complete media blackout regarding the proposals, counter-proposals and discussions during negotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement presently being negotiated.  The current collective bargaining agreement ended at the beginning of 2014.

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