Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta) has told its members that it has no power to reverse the law suspending withdrawal of benefits before a member attains either the voluntary retirement age of 55 years or compulsory one of 60.
Speaking to The Guardian yesterday in Dar es Salaam TUCTA Deputy Secretary General, Hezron Kaaya said it was difficult to change the laws, adding that the pension funds were meant to help the elderly.
“Though it has alarmed many workers, this is a professional matter. The fact is that we, Tucta cannot argue against the move because it is also an international matter that exists even in developed countries,” he said.
The deputy Tucta boss urged workers to be patient, saying the matter will be discussed in the coming meeting, where according to him, they were expecting big changes.
“I want to emphasise that this law has not been approved officially. These are recommendations made by the evaluator of social funds, instructed to do so by SSRA. We expect to further discuss the draft when presented at meetings and we should expect major changes,” said Kaaya.
Kaaya added that the congress will give an official statement on their position when they receive the draft legislative changes.
“What we are doing now is to provide education for employees to understand the way the law works,” he said.
Kaaya said most of those who complained against the suspension of withdrawing benefits until they reach 55 years old, argued that the estimated current life expectancy in Tanzania is 45 years, and that is only a small percentage who can reach the required age.
He said for that reason, the government has a responsibility to protect the welfare of the people so that they can live longer, as well as finding out the reasons why employees leave work before the age of retirement.
“Many things affect life expectancy. The government has a responsibility to reduce the deaths of people by maintaining a conducive environment, especially in access to social services, but to also work on the factors making people leave work early,” he said
The SSRA yesterday allayed fears that the recent decision to suspend withdrawal of benefits before retirement age which are issued by pension funds are aimed at improving members’ welfare including those in mining industry and not otherwise.
The SSRA director general Irene Isaka noted that the benefits were provided when the employees’ services were terminated or they have resigned.
“From now onwards members of pension funds will receive their payments after reaching voluntary retirement age of 55 years or compulsory retirement at 60 years,” she said.
She urged the management of Tanzania mines and construction workers union (Tamico) to educate their workers on the decision taken by the government that the pension funds would continue issuing the other benefits.
“We still have some benefits that remain for miners such as for disability and the injury,” she reassured the miners, promising that SSRA officials would visit mining workers across Tanzania in the first week of next month to elaborate on the changes and what should be expected.
She said the authority continues to harmonise various regulations aimed at protecting member’s benefits.
The DG said the authority has prepared guidelines which would be discussed by various stakeholders before being forwarded to the government for approval.
According to her the SSRA has been drawing up various guidelines aimed at improving the health of pension funds and protecting members.
In May this year the authority launched investment guidelines which all pension funds have to follow when planning to invest in any project for the purpose of protecting member's interests.
Lack of social security investments guidelines has been one of the key challenges which members have been complaining about, especially on how they benefit.
At the moment Tanzania has six pension funds namely National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Parastatal Pensions Fund (PPF) Government Employee Provident Fund (GEPF), Local Authorities Provident Fund (LAPF), National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF).