By Orville Williams
After several months bemoaning late payments, some Social Security pensioners upped the ante yesterday by picketing the Office of the Prime Minister on Queen Elizabeth Highway.
The group of approximately 50 persons at one point, was heard complaining of several issues including the late pension payments and voicing many claims surrounding the delays.
One woman was heard saying, “It’s time for me to get my money. I’m accustomed to getting my money the 25th of each month to the bank and now I can’t get my money. It’s two months now I’m waiting on my social security and it’s time for me to get it.”
Another sought to criticise the administration for what she suggested was favoritism being shown to some private sector businesses, with regard to paying Social Security contributions.
“This government is being very biased. They pick up [contributions] from who they want and they don’t pick up from their friends. They need to pick up from everybody, every single private sector [operation], they need to pick up from them,” she stated.
At some intervals, personnel apparently attached to the Prime Minister’s Office attempted to calm the gathering, but they continued despite those efforts.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne – presumably upon receiving word of the protest – walked outside and attempted to engage the group by explaining the current situation with the statutory corporation. His words were often drowned out by the consistent shouting, to the point where he gave up completely at times.
He did get a few words in, however, and insisted that the government was making an effort to fill the gap.
“Because there is less money coming in from the private sector, my government – within the last seven months – has had to increase its contribution from about $3 million to $5 million per month. So, every month, we have to put in more than our obligation,” Browne told the disgruntled picketers.
He also made a commitment to the crowd, that there is movement underway to acquire the necessary funds to be able to cover both the outstanding November payments as well as December, before the end of the year.
“The bottom line is, you will be paid. Social Security is making arrangements so that they cover both payments for November and December, before the end of December. So, just calm down and we’ll sort you all out,” Browne added.
Meanwhile, the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) has reacted to the incident by expressing its solidarity with the demonstrators and calling on the government to increase its efforts to stabilise the Social Security scheme.