Pensions back under the spotlight …as cries over meager packages intensify

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Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations and Ken Ofori-Atta Minister of Finance

Even as Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations prepares to have talks with players in the nation’s pensions sector, in a month, to block the plans of 12 public sector unions from embarking on a strike over what they term as low pensions being paid by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), there is growing anger over the consistent low packages offered to workers upon retirement.

To analysts, this offers him a good opportunity to begin steps to address the growing outrage by pensioners, and find a middle ground to calm nerves and give hope to today’s labour force of secure future upon retirement.

The beginning of this month saw some disturbing news when one of Ghana’s ace broadcasters Charles Ampofo, popularly known as Amankwah Ampofo revealed that after 32 years of working with the state broadcaster, his service pension benefit was less than GH¢20,000.

The news caused huge outrage on social media but even before it simmers, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Dr. Akwasi Osei, also described Ghana’s pension scheme as “a state-sponsored theft against the people of Ghana.”

“I have described our pension system in the country as state-sponsored theft against the citizens. This is state sponsored stealing. That is why if you go to the pension scheme somebody has worked for 30 years and he is given peanut,” Dr. Osei told a local radio station. While these comments discourage today’s workforce, it has brought to the fore the stuck reality of the many pensioners who are weak and frail and would wish to turn the hands of time.

SSNIT, which is the country’s biggest pensions fund manager has and continue to make the case that, what you put in is what you get. It has therefore encouraged workers to ensure that they avoid machinations that would lead to the salaries on which their pensions are paid from shrinking and diverted into allowances.

But the pensioners say the explanation is not enough making the case that, from the same salary, deduction made into their second tier pension funds are paying twice or in some case thrice the sum lumpsum paid them by SSNIT.

“After 27 years working, SSNIT paid me GH¢9,000 but the tier 2 which I contribute for 10 years paid me over GH¢20,000,” a retiree, Mohammed Abre said at a Press Conference Organised by the Forum for Public Sector Registered Pension Schemes.

The Forum is currently in a tango with SSNIT as it has accused it of unilateral pension decision that have adversely caused pensioners. In one of its disagreements with SSNIT, the Forum asked for the formula for calculation the recently paid past credit – money that remained with SSNIT after the coming into force of ACT 766 which required the scheme to transfer 4 percent of pensioners funds to fund managers (second tier) – which is yet to be made available.

Chairman of the Forum and the Executive Secretary of the Civil and Local Government Staff Association, Ghana, (CLOGSAG), Isaac Bampoe Addo has openly questioned why the staff and management of SSNIT are not being put on the same pension scheme as all public servants but a separate and ‘special scheme’ if they are offering the best wine to their guest.

The issues above need a comprehensive address to encourage today’s workforce and ensure that there is enough reason to retain and attract the best hands and brains into the public sector for economic growth.

As the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations sit around the table with all who matter in the pensions space this month, what must be paramount is not how to gain affection of aggrieved parties but how it can restructure the nations pensions scheme to offer hope today and put smiles on the faces of tomorrows retirees. As the saying goes, ‘We were like you and you will be like us’; let’s make retirement more fun for all.

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