The St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) on Sunday said the Ralph Gonsalves government “must re-iterate its stance on job security” in light of the government’s undertakings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The union further said the government must “give the assurance that such agreement will not at all interfere with the established terms and conditions for teachers and other public servants”.
The union also expressed concern that there has been a wage freeze since 2011.
The union spoke of an Aug. 1 press release, in which the IMF announced the approval of a US$6.4 million disbursement to SVG under the Rapid Credit Facility and the Rapid Financing Instrument.
The IMF said the money will help the country meet an urgent balance-of-payments need due to severe flooding and landslides in December 2013 that caused massive damage to infrastructure, housing and agriculture.
In the press release, the IMF also said rehabilitation and reconstruction spending is expected to widen the fiscal deficit this year.
The Gonsalves government remains committed to securing a sustainable fiscal position and intends to generate a primary surplus of at least 2 per cent of GDP in the medium term to ensure that the debt-to-GDP ratio is put on a declining path, the release said.
“The authorities also intend to carry out civil service and pension reforms, which will boost competitiveness and employment.” But the Teachers’ Union, in its press release, said it is “all too cognisant of the negative consequences of such arrangements for public sector workers, especially teachers.
“Furthermore, SVGTU raises concerns about what appears to be a unilateral wage freeze imposed on workers since 2011,” the release said.
“Moreover, current media reports suggest that the Government has not been up-to-date with its contributions to the NIS on behalf of its employees,” the union said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, will take to Parliament on Tuesday a resolution proposing that the government enter into agreement with the National Insurance Board to raise an EC$15 million loan from the National Insurance Fund to liquidate outstanding contributions owed by the Government to the National Insurance Fund.
The Government proposes to raise the loan by the issue of treasury notes totalling EC$15 million.
The Teachers’ Union also said it views, “with deep concern”, the media reports pertaining to the status of Government NIS contributions.
“Teachers are anxious, and wish to be assured that contributions to the NIS are up-to-date and that retirement benefits are intact and available when due. The SVGTU therefore calls on the Government to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders on these and related issues,” the union said.
Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace last week accused the government of subtly introducing austerity measures as a result of the agreement with IMF.
Eustace, an economist and former finance minister, said that when interpreted, the language used in the IMF press release points to a very bleak picture.
“… what it is saying is that the government has agreed to contain the wage bill and this can only mean no new hiring, little or no promotion, and no salary increase. In other words, they are imposing a wage freeze on the civil servants,” he said.
But Minister of Foreign Affairs, Camillo Gonsalves, in an opinion piece submitted to I-Witness News, said Eustace is wrong.
“…the Hon. Leader of the Opposition clearly erred when he attempted to link disbursements to SVG under these instruments to some sort of austerity agreement or programme by the IMF,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is son of Prime Minister Gonsalves.