• Feature
    Tourism Minister, Hon. 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.
    Photo: Garwin Davis

    Story Highlights

    • Several stakeholders have welcomed the impending implementation of the Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme by the Government.
    • The Scheme, development of which is far advanced, is programmed for rollout in 2020.
    • A number of persons, including rafts men, 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”, while calling it a victory for work relations in Jamaica.

    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, and will require mandatory contributions by workers and employers.

    It 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, development of which is far advanced, is programmed for rollout in 2020.

    A number of persons, including rafts men, 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”, while calling it a victory for work relations in Jamaica.

    Ocho Rios craft trader, Milton Scott, says he was initially skeptical when the Scheme was first proposed, noting “I thought it was wishful thinking”.

    Mr. Scott, who has been in the business for nearly 30 years, tells JIS News that 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.

    Mr. Scott, however, anticipates that the Scheme’s introduction will make a big difference, and mark the start of “good days for the little man”.

    Port Antonio raft man, Errol Mair, describes the initiative as “the best thing since sliced bread”.

    “I like everything that I am hearing about this pension scheme where rafts men, like us, who have been plying our trade on the Rio Grande for years, can now feel like we are a part of something,” he tells JIS News.

    Mr. Mair adds that “we really want to thank the Tourism Minister [Hon. Edmund Bartlett] and his team for fighting the good fight on our behalf and for understanding that for tourism to work, ordinary Jamaicans have to be involved”.

    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.

    Mr. Smith further points out that “it is nice to know that we have people who can recognize that something like this is needed and will go all the way in ensuring that it happens”.

    This development, he says, represents “a great time for tourism workers in this country”.

    For his part, Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, describes the Pension Scheme a “signature accomplishment” for the industry, and general work relations in Jamaica.

    Members of the Red Cap Porters Association in an upbeat mood during a meeting with Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay earlier this year.

     

    He contends that persons who have contributed the most, should be rewarded for their service to country.

    “Pension is the means by which the financial security of the tourism worker is assured. My Ministry has always been committed to [working] with the industry to establish an adequate pension plan for every worker,” the Minister states.

    Against this background, Mr. Bartlett says he is “pleased to see that we are now a mere whisker away from it being a realty”.

    “It was a long fought battle, but was worth every minute and every second of what we put in,” he adds.

    Mr. Bartlett argues that decent wages and conditions of work for industry workers and the assurance of compensation when they are no longer able to work, are important considerations in the tourism sector’s sustainable development.

    “The Ministry is resolved to continue to encourage and facilitate the collaboration of employers and workers in the tourism sector, in the development of these schemes,” he further states.