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Ex-Policemen left out of pension deal meet Deputy Governor

Two retired police officers who say they were “frozen out” of a pension deal struck with Government have met the Deputy Governor to outline their concerns.Russell Matthews, 51, and Ian Morrison, 60, hope David Arkley can get someone to address the issue, which they have tried and failed to do since January 2010.They spoke out earlier this month, saying they want to know the terms of the deal.They complained that an estimated 30 retired officers are losing hundreds of dollars per month as a result of it.The problem relates to the police “combined allowance”, which had been in dispute between officers and government for decades, and formed part of a contract agreement between them, effective from October 2005.The allowance amounted to just under ten percent of officers’ pay and was worth almost $7,000 per year to a police constable at that time.It was designed to compensate for the unsociable hours officers have to work.The BPA and Government got embroiled in a dispute because Government did not want the allowance to be factored in when calculating officers’ pensions. They argued that that would cost millions in extra pension payouts.After a legal battle between the two sides that almost went as far as the Privy Council, Bermuda’s highest court of appeal in London, Government made what Mr Morrison described as a “take it or leave it offer” to the BPA.The deal was to get rid of the combined allowance, incorporate it into officers’ salaries, and make pension payments on their total earnings as of January 1, 2010. It was accepted by the BPA via an overwhelming vote and the Privy Council case was dropped.However, Mr Morrison and Mr Matthews complained that a number of officers who retired between October 2005 and January 2010 were “frozen out” from the deal, including themselves.The pair have been pressing the Bermuda Police Association (BPA) for answers, and the BPA executive discussed the matter at a meeting on August 16. However, it has been unable to provide the information they are seeking.Mr Morrison and Mr Matthews met Deputy Governor Mr Arkley at Government House on Friday, August 24.“We had a good meeting with him and voiced our concerns. He seemed very receptive, supportive and sympathetic, and said he would look into the matter,” he reported.“We told him we have been banging our heads against brick walls. We thought by airing our grievances with him, he might be able to raise the matter with the Governor or Accountant General — anyone who could be useful.”Mr Morrison said he was surprised to hear last week from Kevin Christopher, chairman of the Bermuda Police Association, that the deal with Government was never set out in writing.The officers had been trying to pin down the wording of the agreement, in the hope they could launch a legal challenge to its interpretation.However, Sgt Christopher said that “after much research,” it had been established “that there is no written wording of an offer as no direct offer was made by Government”.He said there were “numerous discussions and meetings” between Alan Dunch, lawyer for the BPA, and Marc Telemaque, representing the Bermuda Government.That resulted in a presentation being made to the BPA by the lead negotiator, Darrin Simons. The vote was taken on the basis of Inspector Simons’ presentation.Mr Morrison said: “This came out of left field. I still find it hard to believe there’s no written offer, but how can you mount a challenge if there’s no written offer?”He estimates that the retired officers affected have, between them, contributed more than 1,000 years of service to the Bermuda Police Service.“We don’t deserve to be treated like this,” he said.Mr Arkley said of the meeting: “I can confirm I did meet with two retired officers, and listened to their concerns. While I understand those concerns I explained that salaries and pensions are not set by Government House.”