More payments are being made than what is received
Long-due payments for service and severance pay is an area the Government of National Unity must face, said Minister of Labour the Hon. Vance Amory.
He made his remarks after it was disclosed that the government has paid out more funding for workers than it has collected. He also noted there are applicants that have been on the waiting list for more than five years.
Mr. Amory raised concern that a number of applicants have made complaints through their attorneys after being on the waiting list for up t nine years. Amory said the government is trying to find out why those payments were not made in an attempt to keep the claimants from taking the government to court.
While he is concerned about the possible court actions, the Minister said, “I want to assure this honorable House that we have already instructed the acting Labour Commissioner and the staff to look at these claims that have been made so we can find a way of satisfying them. Hopefully, we will not have to go through the process of mitigation, but we can have an understanding from those people whose claims were put aside.”
In his address to the National Assembly on Wednesday, April 27, Amory provided statistics for 2010 to 2014, revealing that the severance fund was left in the red by over $6 million.
“Between those years, the contribution to the fund totaled $29,934,235.54 — contributions made by employers and employees to the fund to cover any incident claims for severance benefits,” he declared. “In that period, the payments paid out of the fund or made in response to claims totaled $36,896,016.29, giving a negative overdraft of $6,561,780.75.”
Contributions for the period clearly show that payments made to the fund have not covered all the claimants that qualify for severance, he said. This imbalance has also affected the years 2015 and 2016 since funds are in a current $500,000 overdraft. (The government has seen a contribution of $10,877,737.93 for 2015 and up to April 2016, while claims and payments total $11,516,893.12, making the overdraft of $539,155.19).
Long Service gratuity payments statistics provided by the Minister showed that in 2014 there were 29 claims amounting to $755117.93. Las year saw an increase in the number of claims with 152 individuals applying for $3,440,271.30. This year, 29 claims have been made, totaling $716,901.72.
With the funds currently in overdraft, the government has over 60 outstanding claims to fulfill — 50 in St. Kitts totaling $909,794.13 and 14 in Nevis totaling $475,370.56.
Because of the time length of the claims, Amory said people are becoming impatient and wondering why they have not been paid.