Petition started against pension law changes

An online petition that started Wednesday is urging government to nullify several sections of the recently approved National Pensions [Amendment] Bill.

A screenshot of the on-line petition seeking to stop certain sections of the pensions amendment law.
A screenshot of the on-line petition seeking to stop certain sections of the pensions amendment law.

More than 250 people e-signed the document titled “Stop three changes to the National Pensions Law” within 24 hours of its release on Wednesday.

Michael Caputo, a Caymanian status holder who owns a local window-washing business, started the petition. He said he believes several changes made to the legislation by lawmakers were not “in the best interests of employees in the islands” – as is required by section 2 of the National Pensions Law.

The petition is apparently to be delivered to independent opposition MLAs Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean, according to the document. Mr. Caputo said Wednesday he was uncertain who should receive it, but he knew that the two eastern district members had been successful in effecting change to government policies in the past.

Among the specific sections Mr. Caputo’s petition seeks to overturn are the change in the “age of pension entitlement” [retirement age] from 60 to 65 and the change in maximum pensionable earnings from a $60,000 maximum a year to $87,000 a year.

The petition also seeks to overturn a third provision, one that restricts the ability of individuals to receive a refund from their retirement savings account after leaving the islands for two years.

“Any Caymanian who can leave the islands for two years, in order to collect their pension, and then return, also has a house/property here in Cayman and most likely has a house/property abroad, as well as dual citizenship and the finances to support themselves over those two years … I doubt somebody in this position is ever going to need government assistance,” Mr. Caputo wrote in a lengthy letter on the topic. “The idea that expats would or could leave the islands, collect their pensions in a lump sum and return only to become a burden of the government is a fallacy.”

In changes to the law, pension refunds are restricted to amounts totaling less than $5,000 at the discretion of the pension plan manager. Also, in the case of someone who has reached age 65 and cannot place the money earned in Cayman into an analogous retirement savings account overseas, a refund of the full amount can be given.

Under the new law, plan participants who leave the islands for more than two years can put their pension funds into another retirement account, but cannot receive the money as a lump sum.

Mr. Caputo also noted that the “age of pension entitlement” could also work to the detriment of employees in the islands, if they are required to quit a job sooner than age 65.

“Changing the age of retirement to 65 and giving it a new name (age of pension entitlement) is not for the benefit of employees in the islands,” he said.

“Preventing people formerly employed and formerly resident on the island from receiving their pension benefits in a lump sum is not for the benefit of employees in the Islands.”

Several people made online comments supporting the petition.

“We already have our own pension we can use when we get back home that we can use when we retire,” one person noted. “We don’t have a plan to get old on this island.”

Another comment indicated: “I’m signing because this is not helpful to us, Filipinos, once it has been transferred to a pension plan in our country. This only mean[s] one thing, big problem in claiming our hard-earned money!”

Under Cayman Islands constitutional law, a voter-initiated petition must be signed by 25 percent of the registered electorate before it mandates that the government act on a given issue via referendum.