National Insurance Board (NIB) workers say they will make the public feel their pain until the Finance Minister honours their 2020 wage settlement for a nine per cent salary increase.
During a protest, yesterday at the NIB headquarters in Port-of-Spain, chairman of the NIB section under the Public Service Association (PSA) Kellon Wallace said from PSA calculations, the increase will cost the NIB between $65 and $85 Million.
The workers and Finance Minister Colm Imbert have been at loggerheads the past week over a collective agreement signed in 2020.
Speaking in Parliament last week, Imbert said his ministry is seeking advice on the agreement as it was signed without approval from the Human Resource Advisory Committee of Cabinet as mandated by a 2011 directive from the Finance Ministry.
The PSA has since filed an industrial relations offence against the NIB over its failure to honour the terms of the agreement.
Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday as the workers gathered to protest, Wallace said the ministry has never interfered in negotiations before now.
“The Finance Minister would have made a statement last Tuesday in the Parliament claiming that the collective agreement that the PSA and the NIBTT would have signed, that something is wrong with it. But we as the PSA within the NIB have negotiated our increases on a timely basis between both parties all the time, this is the first we have had this type of interference in our negotiations,” Wallace said.
He said the NIB does not depend on state funding to pay salaries as the National Insurance Act make allowances for seven per cent of collected contributions to be used for the payment of administrative fees, including salaries.
Wallace said going forward, the workers will be sharing their pain with the public.
“The 15th within the month is an important day for them at NIB, it is the last day to pay your national insurance contributions, also tomorrow is the day we pay pensioners, the following week we pull down to pay pensioners again so we are in the system and know it and we have to do what is necessary to let the Government know that the workers of the National Insurance Board, want their money and they want it now,” Wallace said.
He said pensioners will get their cheques, as usual, this month but he could not say what would happen in the coming months.
“The pensioners will be paid this month but the process has to start somewhere- and we have started it today but there will be other instances throughout the month and continuing until this is paid.”
He said the PSA has calculated the cost to the NIB to stick to its agreement.
“As far back as we have checked, the NIB has been allocating funds for this agreement over the years, since 2016 because we would have settled the 2011-2013 period in 2016 and from thereafter they have been putting aside funds for this period. Our calculations stated at the end of December 2020 the arrears to workers in somewhere in the region of let us $65 to $85 Million.”
The PSA’s case for NIB workers comes up for hearing today (Tuesday) at the Industrial Relations Court at 2 pm.