Government says no decision over civil service benefits

| 26/03/2009

(CNS): Nothing has been finalised regarding the escalating cost of providing health care benefits to  more 3,800 civil servants, as well as pensioners, indigents, veterans and seamen, the leader of government business has said. Despite recent headlines and accusations on the campaign trail that civil servants will have to start contributing to their health care benefits, Kurt Tibbetts said that discussions were underway but absolutely no decisions had been made to make government workers contribute.

He admitted that meetings were taking place about how to deal with the growing burden of providing free health care to so many people but he said there were no plans in place to start cutting benefits or taking contributions.  

“A meeting was held recently with the chief secretary to discuss the escalating cost of health care in order to stimulate discussions for proposals,” he said. “The Cayman Islands Civil Service Association was there and it will be aware that the process is ongoing and no decisions have been reached.”

He said all of the facts needed to be aired before any review of how benefits are offered takes place and absolutely no outcome has been determined. “I can assure all civil servants that their voices will be heard before any decision is reached,” Tibbetts added.

However, the LoGB said government was providing health benefits totalling CI$64 million per year.  “We need to find ways and means for health benefits to come in at a lesser cost,” he added. Tibbetts explained that over 90 percent of the  overseas medical care being paid for was dealt with in the United States and government needed to investigate other jurisdictions that could provide as good, if not better, health care in the region for less cost. He said there was a need to, review what was being provided and look at the entire picture.

Minister Alden McLaughlin reassured existing civil servants that government would be unlikely to take away any of their benefits as they formed part of their employment contract but that the plan would be to look at the package offered to new civil servants. He said in the same way that the full pension benefit had been addressed some ten years ago, the package for new recruits as oppose to existing staff could be changed.

“If the civil service continues to grow at the pace it has, combined with a very narrow tax base and increasing pressure on government revenue, we are going to have to do something about that,” he said. “But I would not support changing arrangements with existing civil servants as that would be a breach of contract.”

According to media reports, website comments and those on the hustings, members of the Civil Service Association are already protesting any move to make them contribute to benefits. The Association President James Watler has said any changes would be unacceptable.

“When we came on with the civil service, it was with the understanding that the medical care was free, with a portion of dental and a portion of optical. Now they have put a cap on it, but no one has given them permission. We contest this, we say it’s illegal. They are trying to cut benefits and we said to them you can’t,” Watler told Net News this week.

However, while civil servants are likely to want to protect their benefits as much as possible into the future, how much sympathy they will garner in the wider community remains to be seen as most regular workers in the private sector are expected to meet half the cost of their health care benefits. As the government goes into ever deeper budget deficit and CINICO, the health care provider for civil servants, continues to run at a loss, future public sector workers are unlikely to enjoy the benefits of those already in the service.

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Comments (20)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Kurt is playing the usual fool – he very well knows he is stock between a rock and a hard place. He did the same with the status grants " made enough noise to actually make the people believe the PPM were going to take action and then backed away because he did not want to lose votes, it was just before elections then too" Useless.

    Note that Kurt (PPM) handed it over (the status issue i mean ) to the Cayman Bar Association at the time. Leaving the people to belive that the CBA was going to deal with the matter of reversing the grants. Kurt always has a fall guy (Mac was his fall guy back then). He can’t let anyone see him with his hands durty. But he always points the finger at others.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The civil servants have every right to argue their case. Civil servants are underpaid persons who, when the public sector are getting their 3 – 5% increase in salary for cost of living, the civil servants are not getting their increase paid for years. So if they do not get an increase like you and I (reflected in the monthly wages) – they should by all means get compensated in other means/ways – hence the free medical.

     
  3. NHB says:

    This is one of those stink Bombs no one want to touch but we all need to face the facts these people have security of job and there pay might not be the highest but it is very fair from what I’m seeing there salary is very very competive almost to the point of overpayment look at the many authoritys and there over paid staff the wasted amount of overlapping expenses eg: each of them having there own computer departments do u relise how many system admins are been paid over and over again when u probaly would just need one in the main computer dept, the statment is well they aren’t goverment but the money is been made and wasted in those branchessuch as the water and port if expensives were controled in those and sent back to the main goverment coffers we might not be carring such a heavy load now there is a ton of overspending in many other ways by the goverment as well, but the civil servants I feel should be expected to cover at least 25% of there premiums and make a contribution to there pension even if it is the investment fees and they should be given the option of choice of medical providers

     

  4. Anonymous says:

    Of course, it’s no decision, Kurt, because no decision IS a  decision….The ones  you are best at. This why we are in the mess we’re in now.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I admire the civil service for speaking out….So much money has been wasted on foolishness…New plane tails, paving good roads that were ok to start with, helicopter, heroes day etc. Overheard a volunteer from the Pines the other day, nearly in tears, about the state of that facility…Nothing done in years… Oh, but lets do a Humane Society Day… I have an idea, why not do it at the Pines, where are old people are rotting away without help. And our old folk are treated with distain at the hospital…don’t dispute it until you’ve seen it…..But the humane Society is a feel good day with puppies….Money well spent..Sorry  old people ,you are not cool and don’t draw a a feel good crowd like puppies so I guess you are on the back burner for now……And civil servants you KNOW this is the only time anyone pays attention toyou so I say, don’t let any one take any thing from you because of their fiscal robbery from the till. It’s not your fault, its theirs.

  6. Miss Ritch says:

    I understand that civil servants do not want to give up their benefit of free health care but they need to realize that they are fortunate.  In my opinion if they were not wanting to pay at least half like I and many other people do (in the private sector)  then they are only selfish and don’t care or see the bigger picture. They would rather our own government to go into deeper debt then to pay a share to help out. 

    I am a 31 year old Caymanian who works very hard and I battle with a chronic lung problem, I appreciate that I pay my share of my insurance and that I am not a burden on my government.  I see so many people when I go to the hospital who when asked to pay they simply scream and carry on like a bunch of spoiled childred saying " I aint got no money".  Who made these people think, and these people are my own Caymanians I might add that healthcare in Cayman is free. Unfortnately the government has taught them this and its not right, pay your share like everyone else, you have other benefits to enjoy!

    • Anonymous says:

      I fully agree with Miss Ritch, unfortunately some of these people would rather see the whole ship sink rather than help to bail some of the water.

      The Government (and by extension the country) is facing difficult times, its continued sustainability is in the best interest of  everybody, not just civil servants,  so what if you had to make a small contribution to your health plan to try and make things meet? is this so foreign? is this so wrong? are you so special? would you rather see the person next to you get sent home because the Government can’t afford to keep all of you on with alll the salaries and benefits you now enjoy?

      You all need to think about that real hard because that’s what it is going to come down to, then we’ll see what Mr. Watler and the rest of that union have to say about it then.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ms. Ritch, if you were working for government would you want to give up your salary?  Some government workers don’t make much money as it is.  I won’t give up- my salary.  After all, I have children to feed, clothe, and send to college.  That takes money plus a house loan.

      Why don’t you help government get out of debt? Why should we pay for someone else’s mistakes?  I didn’t choose how government spent their money, did you?

      • Miss Ritch says:

        Does it occur to you that the countries in the world that can provide free health care are countries that tax their people and as a result those people gain back the best free health care that they’re country can offer.  Hint Hint Cayman does not tax us in order to sustain a free health care system. Keep in mind government also only has so many sources of income.  Do you really think that those sorces can pay for roads, schools for your kids, etc etc plus all of your free health care for you and your kids. Come on, wake up because if you were living anywhere else in the world you would have to smell the roses, long and hard too.  We can’t have it all, no one can.  And just so you know even the small little salary owners pay their share of their health insurance in the private sector, its not all about the salary, think outside of the box people!  

         

        Just because you work for the governmentdoes not meant they can’t change or drop one of your benefits, the banks drop our benefits when they see that they need to and we have to accept the change.  Like I said you can’t have it all. But if one never had to pay they one would never understand this!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Here is another ploy just before elections. What will Mr. T say to the civial servants who will be laid off in the next few months. I bet he is praying very hard at the moment that this will not come to light.

    Civil Servants – take all caution. You know more than anyone your sufferings under this Government.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Medical and Pension are a part of the employee benefits package (EBP) of civil servants, Ezzard is correct. It is a contractual factor of the compensation package and not fgratis. If   there is a renegotiation of the EBP (health) where the  govt. employee will be required to make contributions, it will be likely that an increase in basic wage will be negotiated as well.

     

  9. Anonymous says:

    You could start by cutting out all medicine that can be bought in the store that would save some money.

  10. Anonymous says:

    i am a former civil servant and i guess i was not supposed to "comment on government policy"…but the government has not considerd the alternatives in this area. other plans were propsoed and discussed which for example included giving the civil servants some options to choose their helthcare provider and also at the same time cutting the costs by increasing their indiidual contribution to the plan. l But the giovernment sat on these proposals for years and now this? give me a break.

  11. Anonymous says:

    of course Mr T ..nothing has been confirmed beause you would lose the votes of civil servants in 2 months!!

    typical response…why was this ridiculous proposal even on the table in the first place. answer that question Bo Bo!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thats a crock. Everybody knows that government workers have it very easy compared to private sector. Pay and conditions are much better and there is no pressure to perform. Incompetence is rewarded and they can live secure that no matter how bad the economy gets or how bad they are at their jobs they will be secure and still drawing their fat pay cheque and free healthcare every month.

    Its time they started getting rid of some of the civil service wasters that are costing this country money.

    • Anonymous says:

      As a civil servant who performs along with many other civil servants who perform this comment is unfair.

      I agree that there are civil servants who are not pulling their weight however this is a whole other matter and should have nothing to do with the medical coverage that we get. There is no reason that the good should suffer for the bad.

    • Anonymous says:

      Back that up with evidence before slandering people.

  13. Ezzard Miller says:

    It continues to disturb me that politicians keep referring to civil servant medical coverage as FREE, it is not they work hard for this benifit which is part of their compensation package, just like their salaries and vacations.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Exactly as the person above said.  A file clerk in an attorneys office makes 2x what a government clerical officer makes.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Most regular workers in the private sector get paid more than civil servants. Furthermore, a contract is a contract and we civil servants contracted for FREE MEDICAL.