SELEBI-PHIKWE: Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has been successful in their bid to have their now unemployed members access part of their remaining deferred balances with AON pension fund.
The ex-employees’ benefits have since been transferred into a preservation fund and according to AON officials, who addressed them this week, the former mineworkers are allowed to withdraw an additional 25% if they are still unemployed after 12 months of retrenchment.
The 25% is in addition to the 33% they were entitled to upon retrenchment. Ex-employees through their union have been pursuing possibilities of them accessing the deferred remaining balances after the 33% commutation last March.
The ex-employees wanted to be given all their remaining balances to be able to clear off their debts, as some of them are at risk of civil imprisonment for failure to service their bank loans, while others do not see the need for AON to withhold their funds while they (ex-employees) cannot afford to pay monthly premiums.
The successful bid means that ex-employees are now entitled to 25% or P5,000, whichever is greater, while those with a balance of less than P10,000 will then receive their full deferred benefits taxed accordingly, AON official, Mpho Gofamodimo said.
He explained that Botswana Unified Revenue Services and the Non Bank Financial Institution Regulatory Authority regulate the pension fund industry.
He disclosed that the payment of the taxable 25% of the remaining balances is subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees, and said the remaining balances will not be available for further withdrawal until a member reached retirement age.
Gofamodimo said the Board of Directors is the one that will have to do all the necessary logistics and said the payout will possibly be around mid-year.
They also said that they do not know their balances because they have never received any statements since they received the 33% last year. They also feared that there must be nothing much remaining for them as at some point BCL failed to pay their part to the pension fund due to financial challenges.
They also wanted to know if their balances accrue interest and said otherwise they do not see why the money should be kept until retirement age.
However, it was explained that the interests accrued from the stock market rates would not be much as compared to when premiums were paid monthly. AON has been BCL pension fund administrators since 2011 until the mine closed in 2016.
Meanwhile, ex-employees were informed that their funeral scheme (Heaven Is My Home) has been operating at a loss since the mine’s closure with an official citing that the monthly contribution would be a mere P20,000 against P100,000 monthly claims leaving its coffers almost exhausted. This forced the office to relocate to Orapa to minimise costs.
The situation resulted in the union’s funeral scheme parting ways with its underwriter Liberty Insurance because of the high claim rate. Ex-employees were, however, urged to continue paying their premiums to benefit from the scheme.