Government’s 2017-2018 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, which do not make provision for a salary increase for public servants, are not sitting well with the leader of the island’s largest public sector trade union.
In fact, President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall told Barbados TODAY the union would be calling an emergency meeting next Monday to discuss its next move.
He said while he remained cognizant of the Freundel Stuart led administration’s predicament of trying to tackle an unsustainable deficit, high debt and dwindling foreign reserves, it remained adamant that Government should return to the salary negotiation table with a counter offer.
Since October last year the NUPW has been pressing the Democratic Labour Party administration for a 23 per cent pay hike for public servants, arguing that they have not been granted a pay increase since 2008 although the cost of living had increased over time.
“We just want Government to come back to the table. We don’t want to sound as if we are uncaring about the current economic state of the country, but we need Government to come back to the table. That is how it has always been done and that is how it will continue to be,” McDowall stressed.
“It is just that we want them to meet so that we can put our side and they can put their side on the table. It cannot be a case where you are just ignoring the union and are refusing to meet to continue negotiation. It cannot be that,” he further insisted.
The union leader said the NUPW had been more than accommodating to Government over the past five months, but its call has simply been ignored.
“I find it disrespectful personally, that the Estimates would be laid without us being given an opportunity to explain our side,” the union leader said.
“It doesn’t mean though, that negotiations cannot happen. But I would have preferred we would have negotiated before the Estimates would have been laid in Parliament.
“Outside of that, we can’t continue to wait forever. What we are doing, we are calling an emergency meeting of the Council for them to guide us in relation to this matter,” he explained, while not ruling out possible protests.
However, when asked how soon the union wanted Government to return to the negotiation table with an offer, McDowall said: “We would have like it as soon as yesterday.
“I think the time has now come for us to respond to Government so that we can force them back to the table to restart negotiations,” he insisted.
Asked if he was optimistic he would get an offer from Government before the next general elections, due here within a year, a very hopeful McDowall, who has survived two no confidence motions within the last year, replied “I hope that we can get it before the next election.
“When we negotiate, we don’t negotiate based on whether or not elections will be called. What we do is we negotiate based on facts. We negotiate on the fact that in this case that public servants have not received a salary increase since 2008,” he added.
Government is projecting expenditure of $4.5 billion and revenues of $2.9 billion for the financial year 2017-2018, while transfers are projected to decrease by 2.5 per cent to $1.1 billion.