A Government minister has taken umbrage to a suggestion made by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley that the Freundel Stuart administration was seeking to “feather its own nest” with the restoration of a ten per cent pay cut to parliamentarians and other senior Government officials.
Mottley had made the remark before leading members of her Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in a walkout of Parliament Tuesday, in protest of the move to restitute the salaries to pre-2014 levels.
In response Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Stephen Lashley said: “I certainly have a problem with the Leader of the Opposition pointing a finger at me, as an honourable member of this House, and claiming that I am being part of a parliamentary act to feather my own nest.”
Making his contribution to the debate on the Government resolution, which was eventually approved by the House in the absence of the Opposition members, he accused the BLP of “having spun an abuse of the truth in this House”, while insisting that the matter was a mere pay restoration and not any increase in salaries as had been suggested.
For this reason, Lashley called for a public apology from Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and her team while charging that they had not only misled the House, but the entire country on the matter.
Lashley argued that the resolution should have been a simple matter, but lamented that it had become the subject of political partisanship on the part of the Opposition.
“Unless we confront it, the members of the public will get the impression we are in this House voting salary increases for ourselves,” he cautioned fellow members on the Government side.
The ten per cent pay cut for parliamentarians and other senior Government officials came as part of an austerity package announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler back in December 2013.
At the time, a number of new taxes were also imposed, and some 3,000 public workers sent home.
Suggesting that the austerity period was now over, Lashley said “all that is before the House is to restore the salaries of the members of parliament, including the Cabinet”.
While pointing out that on the basis of a legal amendment made years ago Government was prohibited from increasing the salaries of public officers without the agreement of the labour unions, Lashley challenged the Mottley to show by what legal means the Stuart administration had hiked parliamentarians’ salaries, as the Opposition leader had claimed.
“The Leader of the Opposition is getting involved in guerrilla warfare tactics. If you stand up in the House, and you make a position known that the Government is giving itself and all parliamentarians a salary increase, then the Leader of the Opposition should point to the instrument [legally empowering Government to do so], because the Government cannot come in here and give salary increases just like that, “ he stressed.