Opposition MP St. Clair Leacock says that salary increases should be proportional to wage scale, with the lower-level workers getting a larger percentage.
Leacock said that in negotiations, “we have to be mindful of some of the characteristics features of the problem we are trying to solve”, adding that there are “two great sins” that come out of democracy and capitalism — poverty and inequality.
He was speaking about the 7% salary increase, over three years ending 2025, that public sector unions recently negotiated with the government. The increase will be paid 2.5% in 2023, 2% in 2025, and 2.5% in 2025.
Leacock said that one of the things for which governments have to be charged, at all times, “is how best you ameliorate, you narrow, those gaps of inequality in the system, of having extremes — very rich, filthy rich, and extreme poor, or gentile poor or indigent poor, at the other end”.
He said that in that regard, parties in a negotiation have to be mindful that when they come to an agreement, they “revisit the conclusion and decide whether or not, in the circumstances, this is the best we can do to deal with the inequality in the outcomes.”
To illustrate, he said that a 2% increase for someone working for EC$100 a month is EC$2, while it is EC$10 for someone with a salary of EC$500.
“So, we both get 2% but mine is $2 but you got five times me. You are working for more and you got more. I am working for less and I got less.”
He was speaking on Monday on his New Democratic Party’s programme on New Times, standing in for Opposition Leader and party president, Godwin Friday, who is overseas on vacation.
Leacock said he would elaborate on this in another programme “to show how many people in the service the 2% doesn’t make sense for.
“That, in some cases, the 2.5% increase that they are getting will not even allow them to take care of the increased transportation cost they must pay now.
“In some cases, they will not even be able to pay for the increase in the cooking gas in their home. And for those who are in the middle and higher end of the scale, it can hardly take care of the fact of how much gas has increased at the pump.”
Leacock said that it is for that reason, sometimes, “you have to decide … whether or not the increase you are giving should be across the board or whether or not you want to do something for those who are at the bottom of the pole to bring them up to some sense of decency.”
He said that otherwise, when a salary increase is given, the gap between the haves and the have-nots widens and you have more disgruntlement in the society because inflation in the society doesn’t pick income levels.
“The man who is at the bottom, so-called, goes to the supermarket to buy the same kind of groceries or has aspirations to eat the same kinds of breakfasts…”
He said that people who do physically hard work have to pack more food to make it through the day while an executive might just need a cup of coffee and two slices of toast at home, and have an office that provides refreshments.
“I am putting it to you that while the unions have good reasons to celebrate that they have been able to bring the government to the bargaining table and to earn some respect and to provide a tangible set of relief to the people who they represent and the continue to be doing so boldly, bravely, earnestly and honestly, it is more so the responsibility of the government to see if this is the best that can be done in the circumstances,” Leacock said.
He noted that when he was a human resources manager at VINLEC, he led the company in negotiations, adding that he was awarded an MBE for his work in labour relations.
He noted that he was also president of the Employers’ Federation for eight years as well as served as a vice-president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
“I just quickly give that background to make the point that collective bargaining and negotiations is something of which I consider myself to be very well seized. People don’t like to use the word ‘expert’, but that would not be unreasonable if I say that.”
He suggested that the unions should have said to the government, “‘I hear you but I ain’t so sure that the 2% properly takes care of the people at the bottom.
“‘I think what we are going to do is give a 5% for this range of people … because I want to make sure that nobody goes home with less than $10 a month increase. This increase is not going to do much. It is not going to do much.’”
He said such an approach is especially important in light of the fact that the increase is “future-loaded” – meaning it comes into effect next year.
“… it doesn’t take care of 2022 and if you follow what has been happening in Europe and you following what’s happening in America, where inflation rates are running very fast — 8% and 10% — you will see that in those society, kitchen issues loom very large in the state affairs and in the politics of the country…”
He said people still need to be able to put fuel in their vehicles and food on the table.
Leacock said that his attention is directed at the government because he doesn’t want to be at war with “important stakeholders with whom we have good and working relationship” – an apparent reference to the trade unions.
“Don’t consider this to be a done deal because a lot of what is being spoken about and is offered does not do anything whatsoever to important categories of people.”
The trade union had asked for a 9% salary increase and said they think that the government’s offer of 7% is fair.
All the twenty two year old government good for is brag about spending millions but in the interim nobody better for it. The poor pickney nigga dem nah geh non. All their parents money is for food, transportation and uniforms. Charity keeping SVG afloat. How is the $ 15.00 spliff business going?
Mr. Leacock should be blasting the conniving ULP administration at every turn. The same as they are doing to the sincere, peace loving NDP all the time. Ralph have this country skruntin and running fo cover while he and his cronies high off the hog. It’s tiring every time to hear excuses over and over again. When it’s not Volcano, it’s Covid 19, it’s bad-weather or nowadays it’s Ukraine. Poor people can’t catch a break under this regime. Those fellows really take the Crown every time when it comes to lying and mismanagement of the Nation’s resources. And, to boot they want another twenty years. Cha boy.
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