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Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Pensioners wait in vain for payments
Stabroek News
- post office apologises, says cash will be paid today
Waiting in vain: Pensioners at the GPO main branch yesterday. (Photo by Lawrence Fanfair)

Scores of pensioners in the city waited for hours yesterday but were turned away from two central post offices when they showed up for monthly payments.

And late yesterday afternoon, the Guyana Post Office Corporation issued an apology to pensioners, by way of a press release, and said that the situation had been addressed and payments should be available today.

One woman, who made the trip to collect four months of backdated pension, was told that the Guyana Post Office (GPO) main branch did not handle such payments. She was referred to the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security. Her request to collect payment for this month was also denied.

Close to 50 pensioners were left unattended at GPO's main branch yesterday after staff at the office went on strike. Dejected, many of the pensioners grumbled over the situation and called on GPO to say something to them.

But the staff would only say that they were not serving the public anymore. This was a little after 11 am and as time passed, more seniors kept arriving to collect their pensions.

Pensioners who turned up at the Bourda post office were informed that the office had no money so they ended up at GPO downtown only to be told that the workers had downed tools.

Claudia Anderson was among the pensioners at GPO. She tearfully related how she had travelled to GPO from her National Avenue, South Ruimveldt home to get her money because she had none.

Anderson who has trouble seeing and walking, said she was given a lift to the office by a concerned citizen. After learning of the situation at GPO the woman became very emotional.

At the same office, Herbert Peters who lives at Pearl, East Bank Demerara, said he was not leaving the office until someone from GPO told him something positive. The man said the fact that he was there meant he was in need of his money.

He, like many others felt that GPO workers were doing them an injustice by striking on the day when they were to receive their pensions.

Stabroek News made contact with Chief Probation and Welfare Office within the Human Services Ministry, Patricia Gray who said the situation at GPO was unfortunate. Gray said the pensioners should not have been treated in the manner that they were.

At the time the call to Gray's office was placed, she said the ministry was looking into the matter after receiving a report.

When asked about the backdated payments which GPO refused to hand out, Gray said the system required that after three months a pensioner must visit the ministry to have the payments endorsed. However, she said, GPO employees should have explained this to the pensioner. She did not say why this system had been implemented.

It was suggested by another pensioner who was at GPO when the woman was turned away that the system should be flexible or at the very least the Human Services Ministry should inform pensioners of this clause beforehand. The pensioner said being told at the post office was not helpful as the pensioner would already have made a fruitless trip there and there was no consideration by those in authority of the distance between the ministry and the post office; whether the pensioner was ill or infirm; or whether the pensioner had the wherewithal to go to the ministry and get back to the post office. All of which were possible reasons the pensioner might have delayed collecting the pension for three months.

Subsequent calls to Gray for a response to this were without success as the numbers at the ministry rang out.

In January, pensioners in the city and on the East Coast suffered delays in getting their pension books.

The ministry had introduced a new distribution system, which apparently confused some seniors while in other cases, poor planning and insufficient notice about distribution centres led to chaos.

Pensioners were turned away from centres which they were sent to initially and they have clashed with ministry officials.