The Cook Islands National Superannuation Fund (CINSF) this week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) to ensure the social protection of Fijians working here.
This latest partnership will see the transfer of superannuation savings of Fiji nationals from CINSF to FNPF upon the completion of employment of Fiji nationals in the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands Fijian Association public relations officer Lai Gukisuva said this arrangement was a long time coming.
“It’s a good idea from the association’s point of view as Fijian workers will now be leaving the country with their superannuation money going straight to their FNPF account in Fiji,” Gukisuva said.
“At one stage, we didn’t know what will happen to our superannuation money after Fijians who have lived here for five years or so return back home.
“This arrangement gives us an assurance that our superannuation contribution is secured.”
More than 700 Fijians are employed in the Cook Islands, majority of them working in the tourism industry.
In a statement, FNPF chief executive officer Jaoji Koroi said that it has taken two years to formalise the MoU.
Koroi reiterated the need to have in place such initiatives to protect Fijian nationals working abroad.
“This MoU enhances the protection of Fijian workers in the Cook Islands, most of whom are in the tourism industry. Upon the expiry of their employment contracts, they can transfer their superannuation savings to their FNPF account in Fiji, where they would be able to access pre-retirement and full withdrawal benefits under our policies and procedures,” Koroi said.
“Some of these workers, who have returned to Fiji, can now enjoy these benefits rather than wait until they are 60 years old to return to the Cooks and apply for their funds.”
The Cook Islands legislation does not allow members to access their funds until they are 60.
CINSF chief executive officer Damien Beddoes echoed similar sentiments stating that they have protection measures for their members, especially international workers.
Beddoes termed the agreement between the two Funds as a “fantastic protection” programme.
“We have set up additional structures to protect our international workers that will ensure that employers comply and pay what is due to these workers; and therefore protecting the interest of our members and their retirement savings,” Beddoes said in the statement.
He also acknowledged all Fijian workers in Cook Islands for their contribution and support to their host country.
The MoU recognises that both Funds will promote savings for workers towards their retirement and the critical roles in upholding social security standards in their respective countries.
It also expands on the need for collaboration to allow workers moving across borders within the Pacific region to save for retirement.
The statement said this initiative was witnessed by representatives from the World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s social protection programme, adding it is a milestone achievement for both the FNPF and CINSF.