Pensions Bill put on hold after complaints

A Bill dealing with pension scheme payments was put on hold after a string of complaints from the One Bermuda Alliance at the House of Assembly.

Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, agreed to “rise and report” on the National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Temporary Amendment Bill 2019 on Friday.

The legislation would give an employer and staff the choice of temporarily suspending 2 per cent or their national pension scheme payments over a two-year period.

Mr Furbert, who was standing in for the absent finance minister, Curtis Dickinson, said the Bill would have amounted to a 2 per cent hike in take-home pay, aimed at alleviating financial hardship and boosting the economy. But Opposition MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin branded the legislation “a tacit admission that the policies of this government are failing”.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin told the House: “The idea of having a pension fund is for it to grow over time.”

Neville Tyrrell, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, called her “a purveyor of doom and gloom”, and said people might avail themselves of the extra cash in times of financial distress.

Scott Pearman, another Opposition MP, said: “I don’t doubt it’s a personal choice — but we as government have a responsibility to make sure people are taken care of.”

OBA MP Trevor Moniz told the House that he was concerned the legislation “seems to allow the employer to suspend 2 per cent of his contributions into the employee’s benefit scheme without the agreement of the employee”.

He added that the only exception was if the employee was “represented by a collective bargaining agent”.

Mr Moniz said: “I just don’t understand how you can give different sets of rights to employees. It just seems to wrong to me.”

Michael Dunkley, of the OBA, said he was “surprised government Members have not jumped up in droves to speak about this” and told them: “What the Government should do is stop raising taxes.”

He added: “If Members on that side sat on this side, they would be saying the same thing.”

Mr Furbert later told The Royal Gazette that the Opposition had “brought up issues” and that the Bill would return to the House on December 13, when Mr Dickinson could “clarify if needed”.