Government spokesman Richard Sealy believes that he and other senior members of the Freundel Stuart administration should be commended, and not criticized, over new pay proposals that are currently before Parliament.
Speaking in the House of Assembly last night, the Minister of Tourism and International Transport explained that in 2014, senior officials were forced to take a 10 per cent cut in the salaries, as part of Government’s austerity programme.
“Far from the Government being criticised for any increase, we should be again commended for showing solidarity during the adjustment period,” he said in response to comments by the Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, who has described the Government’s decision to reinstitute the ten per cent as political sacrilege of the highest order”, given the recent wage freeze in the public service and current uncertainty facing retrenched workers at the National Conservation Commission (NCC) who were yet to be paid.
However, Sealy was at pains to explain that “we haven’t got any increases, we only restituted what was there before”.
He also took a swipe at Mottley, saying “when we decided to take the cut I don’t remember the Leader of the Opposition or anyone getting up and commending the Government ministers and parliamentary secretaries for taking the decision that we should, in essence demonstrate some sacrifice.
“In fact they [Opposition] were people who publicly said they were against it.”
Leading off debate on a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) – sponsored no confidence motion in Parliament yesterday, Mottley had dismissed that 2014 salary cut as “an optical illusion”.
“However which way you put it. If last month ministers were getting ten per cent less, don’t tell me that it was because they took a ten per cent cut in January 2014, because the public servants of Barbados who were sent home by the NCC in May of 2014 are yet to get money for separation packages, but you have ministers and parliamentarians putting themselves at the head of the trough,” she said.
She also pointed out that public servants have been the victims of a wage freeze since 2010.
“And then this Government can inappropriately, insensitively and without any sense of self-respect put themselves at the top of the line . . . to increase all, ministers, parliamentarians, senators, everybody’s salary in these precincts by ten per cent from what they were getting last month, last year and the year before.”
Mottley, who was supported by other Opposition colleagues, said during a meeting of her party’s MPs and senators on Monday night, it was determined that “we will be nowhere on the scene of the crime when this matter is debated, and we will not be coming into this chamber to debate this issue, because we want no part of it at all”.
She also said she was not prepared to receive any increase in her name.
“I would have to find a way for it to go to a charity until public servants in this country receive a salary increase, and until the public servants from whom this cut was taken receive the separation packages,” Mottley said, adding “we would not know how to take this money in advance of the NCC workers.”
She further charged that the ultimate intention of Government members was to increase the base of their salary so as to increase the pensions and gratuities to which they are entitled if they are no longer members of this chamber.
In support of his leader, BLP member for St James North Edmund Hinkson said the salary proposal was “an affront and the highest indignity to the people of Barbados”.
“You telling me that the $14,000 a month, plus allowances, plus entertainment and travel, plus the per diems of a US$150 each day, they get when they travel, and they travel all about the place first class, is not good enough?”
In contrast, he said there were “thousands of Barbadians without a job, not having anything to give their children, not knowing whether they are going to send their child to school tomorrow, not knowing if they could pay their rent or their mortgage at the end of the month”.