Forced retirement worries Cooks union
The Cook Islands Workers' Association says compulsory retirement may drive out a valuable knowledge base.
A recommendation for compulsory retirement at the age of 60 for those in the public service will be presented to cabinet for consideration.
The Prime Minister, Henry Puna, has said he wants to regenerate the public service, to provide better opportunities for younger Cook Islanders.
The Association's president, Anthony Turua, told Daniela Maoate-Cox he can see the merit in the change but a balance between experienced workers and newer employees is needed.
ANTHONY TURUA: If we do have younger people coming on board, there needs to be some sort of capacity building, because a lot of the older people who are still working, still have that experience, still perform, and I'm a bit concerned that if they do implement that, that it could take away a lot of our older, experienced workers out of the workforce and it needs to be fair and equitable that the decision they're making will benefit a lot in the future for our workers.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: Do you have any idea at the moment, what the age bracket is like in the public service sector?
AT: We have an ageing public sector, so I think, there are merits in terms of implementing the retirement age but I think it needs to work on a roll out phase model rather than rushing it straight away, so it'll be interesting to actually see the policy and how it's going to pan out for the workers.
DM-C: Is there a way to ensure that there is a balance maintained between newer, and younger employees coming through, without losing that experience of people who have been there for some time?
AT: There needs to be some sort of research, in how the transition works, so that there is a fair and equitable transition in terms of the retirement so that we don't have a mass exodus of our older experienced workers and then we don't have a balance with the young people that's now replacing them. Because if we do that and the only breadwinner is the ageing worker then I think Government needs to relook at that.
DM-C: So it's not an easy issue to solve is it, it's quite complicated?
AT: It is quite complicated with a small population. You have 15,000, that's the total population of the Cook Islands, between 15,000 to 18,000, and then the workforce, you're probably only looking at about four to six thousand. So unless we manage properly that we don't have any social issues or complications in terms of the workers and also the depopulation, if you do lay off somebody, that person will automatically jump on the plane and join the queue in New Zealand and Australia.
DM-C: Assuming that you did find qualified younger people to take up these jobs, would there even be enough of an incentive for them to come back to these positions?
AT: Yeah I think that's another area that Government really needs to have a look at the market rate. A lot of our young people, like qualified, teachers, qualified doctors, they can earn three or four times what they're getting here in the Cook Islands, so to lure them to come back you need to offer them an incentive that will be close enough to what they're earning overseas.
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