By Kenton X. Chance
The government is offering a 2.5 per cent salary increase for 2015 to public sector workers, to be paid on Dec. 18.
The offer comes one week after public servants staged industrial action urging the Ralph Gonsalves government to reverse a decision that it could not afford a one-month tax-free payment to cover outstanding arrears.
President of the Public Service Union (PSU), Elroy Boucher, said that the offer had been made Tuesday during a meeting between the public sector trade unions and Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Gonsalves, who had initially described the industrial action as a “failure”.
“Yesterday, the government put an offer on the table. Our primary objective was achieved, and the strike was successful,” Boucher told a news conference.
“If you were to take a productivity measurement within the schools, and you simply have to ask the children what was done throughout the day, and you will realise there was very little done. Throughout the public service, people were just taking their own good time as if they were on go-slow. Productivity for that day, I can assure you, was down, and down tremendously lower than what it would normally have been.”
The trade unions had initially asked for salary increase for the period 2011 to 2014, but proposed a one-month salary increase, tax-free, after the government said it could not afford to pay salary increases.
Boucher said that the government is also proposing a 2 per cent salary increase for 2016.
Boucher said that while the unions at Tuesday’s meeting all agreed in principle to the salary increase, the PSU will go back to its membership before making a final commitment to accept the government’s offer.
Boucher said the unions needed to test their members’ commitment to industrial action, hence the one-day strike.
“You see, this is a politically charged country, and in order to know precisely what is going to be the reaction of your members, there are times when you have to take action to test that out.”
He said the results of the strike showed that public sector workers, especially those within the Public Service, went to work for three reasons.
Boucher said some were fearful of losing their jobs, adding that public are fearful.
“Persons called the union and asked about the security of their job. They were fearful. And it’s no secret that public servants operate in an environment of fear
“Many persons fear victimisation and that is what we have been operating under for years,” Boucher said.
He further said that persons went to work because their loyalty lies with the political party.
“They see this as a strike against their party. Not a strike to deal with issues affecting workers — a strike against a political party. That’s a frightening thing in this country, because party comes and party goes and the union still has to stand up on behalf of workers,” Boucher told reporters.
The PSU leader said that some workers said they would like the payment to be made but did not think the country could afford it and decided not to take industrial action, adding that he has “the utmost respect for that position.
“But the success of the strike was not dependent entirely on persons coming out, because the union got a response, the government made an offer. Prior to that, there was no movement. You heard that nothing can be done, but today, coming from the meeting yesterday, an offer is on the table for us to take to the membership.”
Boucher said the position adopted by the government on Tuesday was the one originally proposed by the unions.
He said the unions were always interested in a salary increase but only put the one-month salary increase on the table after the government said it could not afford the payment.
He told reporters that a salary increase is more beneficial to all public servants because it puts them in a better position at retirement.
Update: An earlier version of this story said government is also proposing a 4 per cent salary increase for 2016. The government is actually proposing a 2 per cent increase for 2016.
A 2.5 percent increase has no justfication.
As for productivity, it is rock bottom in both the classroom and in every government office day in and day out.
Any objective study would show that these workers are underworked and overpaid compared to their counterparts in both the local private sector and in developed countries.
If these union leaders had any pride and/or the workers had any solidarity, they would have already resigned or been deposed.
David you are way out a line. Why are you so against a salary increase? You didn’t bitch about the welfare increase and these people just sit on their arses do nothing.
I don’t know why the union will believe Ralph now, after they tried to force his hands. Notice the timing on the increase. He’s trying to leave a problem for the NDP when they take over the government. The van owners, the teachers and public servants will see nothing from this government. He’d leave them in limbo like the airport.
I have chronically complained about able-bodied and otherwise supported individuals (e.g., elderly or disabled persons living with working relatives who are feeding and otherwise supporting them) receiving Poor Relief.
I have also long argued that welfare payments are meant to keep people dependent on the ruling region.
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