By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Electricity Corporation employees are now required to contribute 25 per cent to the overall costs of their pension plan as well as 25 per cent of their medical insurance with an increase of 50 per cent in three years, Executive Chairman of BEC Leslie Miller announced yesterday.
As it stands BEC pays 100 per cent of the employees medical insurance as well as contributes all of the money in the Pension plan – at a cost of $16 million per annum.
Mr Miller said the move, which is expected to save BEC $6 million a year, is one of many intended to save the corporation money that can be transferred into savings for the Bahamian public.
He said BEC continues to experience high costs for the provision of both pension and medical benefits, therefore employees will now contribute to both plans – which he says is the norm for both private sector and government agencies.
“Last year, this cooperation spent approximately $6 million on medical insurance for BEC staff. The staff at BEC did not pay one
single penny. BEC spent an excess of $10 million contributing to BEC’s pension fund all of those persons working at BEC did not contribute one single penny. The Board of Directors has decided, in collaboration with management, that effective either May or June we will ask the employees to make a contribution of 25 per cent of the overall cost, meaning each person will pay 25 per cent and BEC will pay 75 per cent to the pension fund as well as the medical plan,” he said.
“You may ask, ‘Is that too much to ask?’ When we sat in this room with those persons who run the major insurance conglomerates in the Bahamas they were so astounded as to one of the reasons why BEC is losing so much money because BEC gives away so much. Top executives in these insurance companies in the Bahamas, they pay 50 per cent of their pension as well as 50 per cent of their medical. So we are now going to ask management as well as staff that they would contribute 25 per cent beginning this year and over a three year period they will go up to 50 per cent. That would save some $6 million that could be passed on to the Bahamian people in savings.”
In addition to cutting those payments, Mr Miller said the board has also agreed to cut overtime payments by introducing a new flexitime and rostering system.
According to Mr Miller, last year BEC paid 53 million dollars in salaries – $42 million in base pay and $12 million in overtime. He said the average salary for a BEC employee is $50,000 and this is paid out in many instances for unskilled labour.
He said: “That is $1 million dollars a month in overtime. Let me give you the figures for the new fiscal year, which ended in September. In October we paid $683,000 in overtime, in November because of Hurricane Sandy it went up to $1.3 million, in December $912,000. In January, when we implemented the new programme and insisted on less overtime it decreased to $774,000, then in February – $474,000 – a decrease of $300,000. It is the goal of this board and management that we keep overtime at a minimum and the goal is $300,000 a month, that would be a substantial saving.”
Mr Miller admitted that not everyone at the corporation was happy about the changes, but he said “they can find a new job”.
“Some people say they won’t go along with it. Well, if you don’t come to work, you don’t get pay, hey? BEC is owned by the people it is their corporation, they have the right to expect good services at the right prices and they have to expect that service on a regular basis. They have a right to know that when their bill is paid and they go home and turn their light on, the light comes on and industrial action shouldn’t affect their lives because some people saying ‘well we aren’t going on no flextime and we won’t do no rostering’,” he said.
“Then you have a choice and the choice is if you choose not to go on flextime and not to go on rostering then you should find yourself a job elsewhere other than BEC because all that we are doing is trying to save money in any area of the corporation that we can, to enable us to pass those savings on to the people of the Bahamas and that should not be a difficult thing for anyone who works at BEC. So we are just asking for their full cooperation and the cooperation of the Bahamian people in giving this board and management an opportunity to affect our lives in a positive way.”
The flextime and rostering systems are expected to be fully implemented by the Fall.