The powerful Barbados Workers Union (BWU) announced tonight it would ask for a “practical” 15 per cent salary increase for the hundreds of public sector employees it represents. The revelation by BWU General Secretary Toni Moore followed an announcement last week by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) that it would demand a 23 per cent rise for public servants.
Speaking to reporters after a near two-hour meeting of shop stewards from the public sector at the BWU’s Solidarity House headquarters, Moore said the union’s proposed increase would be across-the-board for two years, retroactive to April 1 this year.
She said the union would submit its proposals to the Ministry of the Civil Service by the end of this week, and hoped that negotiations could start soon afterwards.
“The fact that we are asking for 15 per cent is a BWU position. But we always present negotiated positions in negotiations. The NUPW, I am aware, submitted 23. That is where they would want to begin. Our negotiated position represent what the Barbados Workers Union has recognized as being practical within the context of the last eight years that we were in crisis and we thought that we should not vary that now only because it is public sector negotiations and only because there has been an obvious trigger,” said the union boss.
While stating that the proposed salary contract would end March 31, 2018, Moore did not break down the percentages year by year, stating the broad figure was “handed down” by the Executive Council.
In an apparent reference to Government’s decision to restore parliamentarians’ salaries to the pre-2014 levels, when they took a 10 per cent pay cut as part of the administration’s austerity programme, Moore suggested the BWU expected no less.
“We are hoping to restore our public sector workers. We recognize that the Cabinet made a very conscience decision some two years ago that they would seek to lead by example and bear pain to the extent that they recognize that they were calling on [Barbadians] and particularly workers in the public sector to carry.
“So we are hoping that in the same way that they have experienced some upturn, that we can have similar upturn for our public sector employees,” she pointed out.
Moore said in addition to the proposal for a pay rise, the BWU intended to put on the table “a number of non-salary conditions”, many of which went back to 2008.
“For instance, we recognize that there are modifications that are required for the existing Public Service Act and those are modifications that we will be seeking to have addressed during the upcoming negotiations especially as it relates to appointments, the procedure for appointments and as it relates to people who have been acting in positions for three years, seven years, and who still have not been appointed, and who like some other categories of workers would like to know that they can be retired . . . reach the pensionable point, being confirmed . . . not only with a certain salary, but status,” the BWU boss explained.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said Friday the country could not sustain the 23 per cent rise which the NUPW was requesting, saying it would cost the Treasury about $150 million.
Sinckler also warned that if Government were to give in to the union’s demand, it would further hurt public servants, disrupt the economy and force the Government to impose harsher measures.