The attempts by the Teachers Union to get the government to pay public servants one month’s salary in the absence of a wage increase since 2011 has nothing to do with the upcoming general elections, the union says.
“I hope that the rest of the public will not see this issue and join it with the political environment that is in the country right now,” union president Oswald Robinson told I-Witness News on Sunday.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Ralph Gonsalves told trade union leaders on Friday that his Unity Labour Party government will not be able to make the salary payment this year.
Robinson told I-Witness News on Sunday that his union has suspended talks with the government and will seek “creative ways” to ensure that the state meets its demands for a one-month, tax-free salary payment
But he said this has nothing to do with the upcoming general elections, which Gonsalves said will come this year, ahead of the March 2016 constitutional deadline.
“Because any time a trade union decides to stand up, to be innovative and to mobilise its membership to be more focused in achieving its goal, people want to say it’s politics, you have something against the government,” Robinson said.
“I want to make this point absolutely clear that what we are pressing for has absolutely nothing to do with the current political environment in our country.
“You know elections are due, should be called any time, and if this things goes into another mode, people may want to link this with what they are saying.
“We have been very patient, we have had our conversations and we are not getting any movements and we want the public to understand that.
“What we are pressing here has nothing to do with who is in power. We have made a request because we have had a wage freeze,” Robinson said.
He said Gonsalves has been saying that some workers have been getting emoluments.
“… but that’s something that has already been tied to their salary, like the increments that they will get every year,” Robinson told I-Witness News.
“That is not a salary increase. We have asked for a one-month, non-taxed payment for all workers across the board.”
When trades unions initially made the proposal earlier this year, Gonsalves said he would have given a response by the end of June, a deadline that he missed.
He gave his response on Friday.
“And he is coming back with a new proposal. He is talking about he wants to give an increase in January. I said in the meeting, this one-month, non-taxed increment for workers has nothing to do with what he is proposing. So he can’t get the two things mixed up,” Robinson told I-Witness News.
“So the point of the matter, our position as a union, we are strategizing, we are going to have discussion with our membership and we are going to chart a way forward to ensure that we get what is rightfully ours. Because you can’t push the rest of the society and leave the working people behind. It makes no sense,” Robinson said.