Amid ongoing negotiations between public sector unions and the Ministry of Civil Service, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is hoping that an amicable settlement which would not require her intervention.
The pay talks come on the heels of Government’s announcement of its plans to restore a ten per cent pay cut imposed on parliamentarians and other senior public servants back in 2014 at the height of a domestic austerity programme that led to the retrenchment of over 3,000 workers.
The unions are now demanding a pay increase for the island’s 20,000 plus public servants on the grounds that if Government can afford to restore the salaries of members of parliament, the same could be done for their members who have not enjoyed a salary hike for well over six years.
While the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is calling for a 23 per cent hike the Barbados Workers’ Union has proposed a 15 per cent increase, which it believes is more realistic at this time.
The NUPW is also seeking to have discussions on a list of non-salary allowances.
However, Dr Byer-Suckoo said her ministry would not get involved in the negotiations unless there was a dispute.
“The public hears about the ones [negotiations] that are disputed, but dozens, even scores of wage negotiations happen quietly at local level and never even reach my office. I hope that this is what can happen in the Civil Service, that at the table the two parties can come to some agreement, but my ministry is not involved in this matter,” she told reporters.
Ahead of the negotiations, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had indicated that while he was open to discussions on a wage hike for the public servants, “salary negotiations were never settled just on the basis of what trade unions want, but based on the realities Government faces”.
“When all is said and done, there are indices that we have to look at in determining what the Government can afford in salary negotiations. We have to look at our deficit, we have to look at the various heads of expenditure, in many cases structured expenditure, in which the Government is involved and which the Government has to remain committed,” Stuart had said at a media luncheon he hosted at his official residentce Ilaro Court in June.