The Public Service Union (PSU) and the Teachers Union have written to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves telling him that state workers are “eagerly waiting” the payment of one month’s salary tax-free the unions requested as the government has failed to give a salary increase for 2011 to 2014.
The unions asked for the payment earlier this year and the government has missed its own June 2015 deadline for a response to the Unions’ proposal but said this will be done before the end of July.
President of the PSU Elroy Boucher told I-Witness News that the unions met last week and are maintaining their collaboration with respect to the proposal.
Boucher said that in the letter, the unions are asking Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, “for the result or a report on the review and letting him know that public servants, civil servants — inclusive of policemen, all public officers — working for the government, are eagerly awaiting the payment of one month’s tax-free salary.”
Asked if he thinks the government in a position to pay, Boucher told I-Witness News, “It’s a difficult question to answer.
“My personal view is that indicators seem to be saying that it is a difficult one to do. I am very much aware of that. But as a union, you will need proof of that. You will definitely need proof of that because while I might feel so on the ground, looking at the expenditure of government and all of that and what they can or can’t do, government needs to bring the evidence to the union to show that they can or cannot.”
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, speaking separately, told I-Witness News that he is not surprised that the government hasn’t made the payment.
“I didn’t expect them to be able to do it. That doesn’t come as any news to me,” he said, adding that the government has to raise EC$23 million for salaries every month.
“… and that is not easy in the present economic climate,” Eustace told I-Witness News.
Gonsalves has said that the one month’s salary payment will cost the government EC$25 million.
Asked what he would have done to avoid such a situation were he in government, Eustace told I-Witness News he would have been working much more closely with the relevant sectors.
He said that even during the decline of the banana industry, it still generated up to EC$50 million a year.
“You gone from that to zero,” said Eustace, an economist, adding that other aspects of the economy, including tourism, are not doing well.
“What I am saying, our basic economic sectors are not doing well. And once that is the case, there will be more and more borrowing, and there is no point trying to hide the borrowing.
“So the thing is, you have to come up with policies and programmes, you have to decide what you are doing to stimulate the private sector and so forth to keep your economy at least in some sort of buoyancy and have less dependence on having a heavy debt.
“Our capital programme is not being implemented properly although you could have very important projects there, because we have no counterpart monies to put to the projects, so we are borrowing a hundred per cent now for the projects. Those things can stop. It will take some time but it has to be dealt with.”
Eustace also said the situation can be helped if a stimulus is provided to the private sector.
He said the monies that the government is spending to buy building material from Jamaica could have helped the local private sector.
“… if they were bought from the local private sector, they will have a positive impact on the economy. And the questions of employment also — there will be less layoffs,” Eustace said.