It has already been told by Government that it cannot afford to meet its demand of a 23 per cent pay hike.
However, the leadership of this island’s largest trade union has emerged from the preliminary round of wage talks with the Freundel Stuart administration, saying it was upbeat about the pay negotiations.
“Basically the talks were amicable [and] we are pleased with the preliminary discussions,” said Roslyn Smith, general secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).
Following a near four hour-long meeting with officials in the Ministry of the Civil Service at their Culloden Road, St Michael office, Smith was asked if there were any concessions on either side, to which the NUPW leader replied:
“When we meet back later this month, we would be in a better position to make any public statements.”
Last Friday, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart indicated during a press luncheon at his official residence, Ilaro Court, that he was open to discussions on a salary increase for the island’s 20,000 plus public servants.
However, he immediately warned that his Government had no intention of embarking on any “carnival of spending”.
Earlier, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had strongly cautioned the NUPW to temper its demand, saying Barbados could not sustain any 23 per cent pay hike, since it would cost the Treasury roughly $150 million.
Speaking on the state-run Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation last month, the Minister of Finance had also warned that if Government gave in to the union’s demand, the consequence would be further hurt for public servants, more disruption of the economy and the imposition of harsher measures by Government.
However, in the lead up to today’s negotiations, the NUPW leadership –– including President Akanni McDowall and then Acting General Secretary Delcia Burke –– had been adamant that the demand for 23 per cent more pay was justified. Therefore, they said the union would be sticking to its guns.
McDowall had also said their proposal was based on solid economic data and was not “plucked from the sky”.
However, the Barbados Workers Union, which also represents the island’s public officers, has submitted proposals for what it calls a more “practical” 15 per cent wage hike.
Government is also due to hold pay talks with the umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations. However, a date and time for those negotiations is yet to be set.