Public servants must get a pay rise too!
That was the position of the umbrella body of trade unions in response to this week’s decision by Government lawmakers to restore the salaries of parliamentarians and senior civil servants to the pre-2014 levels when there was a ten per cent cut.
Without commenting on the morality or fairness of the vote, the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Thursday described it as “a clear indication that the economy is in a position to afford an increase for public sector workers”.
“It is probably better for us to interpret it . . . [as] a signal that our economy can afford to provide some type of increase. So we are looking at it from the point of view that if that can happen, then as unions we expect that when we go forward that we would suitably be able to get an increase,” CTUSAB President Cedric Murrell told a news conference at the association’s Beckles Road, St Michael headquarters Thursday morning.
The briefing was called to update the media on CTUSAB’s plans for 2017, but became an avenue for discussion on the vote and its implications for pay increases for public servants.
Murrell’s language was more guarded than that of fellow trade unionists Akanni McDowall of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and Caswell Franklyn of the Unity Workers Union, who, in an immediate reaction to Tuesday’s vote, described the governing legislators as shameless, “unconscionable” and “money grabbing” politicians who did not care about workers.
However, he was no less forceful in his conviction that Government must follow its own lead and give public servants a pay rise.
“I understand what has happened and I am not speaking in any partisan way about whether that should be restored or not because if they were public workers we would have been fighting for the restoration of what we had given up. So we are not involved in that dialogue at all. What we are saying is that if the parliamentarians believe that the country can relax itself then we are taking the cue and hope that they would treat to our representation similarly,” he insisted.
Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) parliamentarians had walked out of the House in protest against the vote, with BLP leader Mia Mottley accusing members of the administration of asking people to tighten their belts while enlarging theirs, and insisting that there ought not be any changes to parliamentarians’ pay until public servants get an increase.
McDowall was also furious at the Government legislators, telling Barbados TODAY he was baffled that the Members of Parliament were looking “after yourselves before you look after the people you were meant to serve”.
In fact, so determined was he to press for a hike in wages for civil servants in the wake of the vote, that he immediately called a meeting for Government workers for 2 p.m. tomorrow at NUPW headquarters “to discuss this issue and the way forward”.
“Public servants should come out and say to this union by their presence how bad they need a salary increase . . . . It is ridiculous that public servants have to bear with the price of good and services in Barbados that would have increased significantly over the years; it is ridiculous that public servants have to pay all of these taxes. It says to me that you care more about yourself than people you are there to serve,” he said at the time.
The NUPW leader also complained that public servants had not had a pay rise in about seven years, and that talks on a proposed 23 per cent increase had dragged on.
The issue also came up at today’s news conference, with CTUSAB General Secretary Dennis De Peiza describing the delay as worrying.
“This negotiation in our view is quite protracted. We are quite aware that since 2009 public workers have not had a salary increase and we have held strain over that period all in the national good and national interest,” De Peiza said.
He complained that negotiations with Government had begun back in 2012, but that there had been only three meetings in the ensuing period, the last one taking place late last year.
He also complained that public officers had suffered intolerable levels of hardship in the face of rising cost of living and the imposition of several taxes and it was only fair that they be given a pay rise.