Public officers have given the Freundel Stuart administration just over two weeks to return to the bargaining table or face their wrath.
Temporary Government workers met with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) for about two hours Monday during which they discussed their demand for a pay rise and several other issues.
Following the meeting NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith said public servants were tired of waiting for the resumption of negotiations for increases in salaries and wages, and they would take industrial action if the talks did not commence by the end of this month.
“Since last year we have been trying to get a meeting with the Ministry of the Civil Service. However, the Permanent Secretary has been unable to get a mandate so far; and I think that the workers are getting a bit weary and they probably will be giving the Government their mandate,” Smith warned.
“I believe we should have had something [talks] as early as January. However we were told there was no mandate as yet. I understand the Prime Minister should be out of the island; so I am hoping that on his return the union would be given a mandate. So I believe that if there is no response between now and the end of February, we would know going forward, what the applause was all about,” she said in reference to loud applause head coming from the closed-door meeting.
The union leader did not reveal what form of industrial action workers would take if their demands were not met, choosing instead to stress that Government had been given sufficient latitude, “so the time will come when we make and take that decision”.
She insisted the NUPW would do everything possible to ensure its members receive a pay increase, explaining that the workers were emphatic that they deserved a raise.
”People believe that public officers are unproductive. This country has been going on the back of lesser workers because you had layoffs, yet still persons were able to meet the targets and demands like that,” she said.
Smith also dismissed a recent suggestion by former Prime Minister Owen Arthur that now was not the time for a pay hike, insisting demands for an increase were justified.
And she wanted Arthur to explain when he thought was a good time for the workers to request a rise.
“You are getting the production, workers are working hard. They are over-taxed and they would have built, or propped [up] the economy over the last five years. The Government restored their ten per cent . . . it is not a salaries and wages agreement, but at least when they restored their ten per cent, they have ten per cent more to spend. Public officers do not have one per cent as yet. So it would be unreasonable to say that the public officers don’t deserve a salaries and wages settlement,” the union leader contended.
The last time the NUPW and Government representatives met at the negotiation table was in October last year where the public officers demanded a 23 per cent hike over a three-year period.
Monday night’s meeting, which was attended by about 100 temporary workers at the union’s Dalkeith Road, St Michael headquarters, was held to update members on the latest round of negotiations, as well as appointments and the Public Service (Qualifications) Order.