The Freundel Stuart administration has been given “one last chance” to return to the negotiating table to discuss the protracted salary increase for civil servants, says President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall.
Following a two-hour meeting with public sector employees at the union’s Dalkeith, St Michael headquarters Friday afternoon, McDowall told reporters his members had taken strong exception to the vote by parliamentarians this week to restore their salaries and that of other senior Government officers who had taken a ten per cent cut back in 2014 at the height
Amid an ongoing wage freeze for civil servants, who have not enjoyed a pay hike since 2009, despite having higher taxes and a higher cost of living, McDowall said the workers also made it clear they were no longer interested in any dialogue, only firm action in support of their pay demands.
The NUPW is currently seeking a 23 per cent rise for Government workers.
However, to date there has been no firm agreement on the matter with both NUPW officials and their members seemingly anxious for a resumption of the wage talks, which have been suspended since last October.
In fact, while Friday afternoon’s meeting was attended by fewer than 100 workers, NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith said the level of frustration expressed was “as if we had ten thousand people in there this afternoon.
“It is a thread that goes right through the public service where persons have been disadvantaged for so long that even if you had one person, they would bring the feelings of all the members of the public service,” she explained.
And though not ruling out the possibility of industrial action, McDowall assured that “as a responsible union what we would do is make sure that the process is followed to give Government one more opportunity to come back to the table because we want to follow the process, despite what people might say”.
The union president was however unwilling to go into details on the actual proposals that have been left on the table, even though he suggested that the NUPW would be willing to accept a reasonable compromise.
“What we will not do is throw out the baby with the bath water. We will ask for whatever is reasonable for Government to give,” he said.
Earlier this week, McDowall had joined President of Unity Workers’ Union Caswell Franklyn in crying shame on the Government’s move to restore the pay of the senior officials, with Franklyn calling on Barbadians to hold the Freundel Stuart administration accountable for “their insensitivity to the workers of the country”.
“What has happened to people from National Housing Corporation that have not gotten back a cent after they were sent home? They are talking about getting back their ten per cent but what about those people who lost 100 per cent? These people are unconscionable and that should be their resignation.
“Barbados should rise up against this nonsense but Barbadians are too docile. These people got no shame whatsoever. They are basically uncaring and unfeeling, money grabbing bunch of people. They should be ashamed,” an upset Franklyn said at the time.
And just yesterday, the umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) added its voice to the public debate over the matter, saying it viewed the Government’s decision to restore the ten per cent as a clear indication that the economy was performing at such a level that it could afford an increase for public sector workers.
“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 said in support of the call for higher wages.