Stakeholders welcome impending implementation of Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme

Several stakeholders have welcomed the impending implementation of the Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme by the Government.

The initiative, being piloted by the Ministry of Tourism, is a defined contributory plan supported by legislation. It will require mandatory contributions by workers and employers.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett (left), greets a member of the Red Cap Porters Association during a function at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay earlier this year.

The scheme will cover all workers, aged 18 to 59, whether permanent, contract or self-employed. Benefits will be payable at age 65 years or older. The Scheme is programmed for rollout in 2020.

A number of persons, including raftsmen, airport bag handlers, and contract workers, who have spent most of their lives working in the industry, say the scheme is nothing short of “historic”. They also describe it as a victory for work relations in Jamaica.

‘So many have been left to fend for themselves, having nothing to show for the many years of service to tourism.’

— Craft trader Milton Scott

Ocho Rios craft trader, Milton Scott, says he was sceptical when the Scheme was first proposed. Scott, who has been in the business for nearly 30 years, says many traders, like himself, have put everything into the sector over the years.

“We cater to both cruise and stopover visitors, selling genuine Jamaican-made craft. Unfortunately for many of us, we have never had anything, like a pension, to fall back on. So many have been left to fend for themselves, having nothing to show for the many years of service to tourism,” he points out.

Port Antonio raft man, Errol Mair, describes the initiative as “the best thing since sliced bread”. He says: “I like everything that I am hearing about this pension scheme where raftsmen, like us, who have been plying our trade on the Rio Grande for years, can now feel like we are a part of something.

Patrick Smith, a bag handler at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston for over 20 years, contends that the Scheme is long overdue. “Nothing ever happens before the time. But for an industry that brings in so much money, like tourism, this is richly deserved,” he notes.