Politics is involved in the demand by trade unions to secure a one-month salary payment in lieu of wage increases since 2011, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on Wednesday.
Speaking on his Unity Labour Party’s radio station, Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs, said he is not saying that the public sector workers don’t need an enhancement of their salary and condition.
“They are doing important work so this is not a case where I am denouncing teachers and calling them greedy. I am not doing that. I am not doing that at all.”
Union leaders have demanded payment before general elections, expected before year-end, but have maintained that their demand is in no way connected to the polls, a position that they restated in a radio programme on Sunday.
Speaking on “Hitz Talk”, Elroy Boucher, president of the Public Service Union, noted that the negotiations began in December 2014.
“It is at this stage not because of the unions but because of the government. Because this payment could have been made since in January or February. So it is not something that was timed to coincide with elections,” Boucher said.
But Gonsalves, citing unnamed sources, said on Wednesday that he was reliably informed that some of the agitation is politically motivated.
“But I want to say this now: there are couple of persons who have made it plain and it has been reported to me reliably, one person said, for instance, that she is not interested in really any salary.
“What she interested in is a change of government; she wants to see the ULP change. She wants the NDP. And when people asked her, she said she is an NDP person and she expects in any case that I will be the chief education officer. So that’s what she’s fighting for,” Gonsalves said, but did not identify the person of whom he spoke.
“Then there is another gentleman who has a beef because he’s grousing — it has been brought to my attention — terribly at the workplace because a younger more qualified person than him is being earmarked by the ministry concerned, not my ministry, the relevant ministry, for advancement over him,” the Prime Minister further told listeners.
“Now, he may have a legitimate reason to grouse. I don’t know,” Gonsalves said, adding that the Public Service Commission will make a determination.
“But you have these kinds of things, some political, some personal, beyond the issue itself.”
Gonsalves, however, said he takes president of the Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson, “at his word that this is not, from his perspective, a political issue.
“And I have known him to be an honest person so I am not denouncing him,” Gonsalves said.
“But I am just saying and let the public know that persons who are agitating who have agendas not connected to anything other than their personal grievances, individual grievances, I am talking about and politics,” he said.