If public officers were to be given even “a nice, comfortable” ten per cent pay rise it would deal a blow so devastating to the economy that it would be difficult to recover, one Government senator has suggested.
In making a case today against an increase in wages, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Darcy Boyce told the Senate a ten per cent hike would cost the country at least 1.5 per cent of its gross domestic product, causing an even bigger deficit. The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has demanded a 23 per cent wage hike, while the Barbados Workers Union is seeking a 15 per cent increase.
With parliamentarians from the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) having recently voted to restore the ten per cent of their salaries voluntarily given up in 2014 at the height of austerity, the NUPW is insisting it is proof that Government can afford to give the public servants a pay rise.
However, Boyce was adamant today that an increase was not affordable, stating during his contribution to debate on the 2017-2018 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure that a ten per cent hike – a figure that none of the unions has demanded – would add $122 million to the $1.2 billion wage bill, drive the economy to death’s door and force more taxes on Barbadians.
“You will recover from that with more taxation, but you are still going to be down by about close to $100 million for ten per cent increase in wages,” he told the Upper Chamber.
“If that were to happen you have to find foreign exchange to support not $100 million, but $400 million of spending in the economy. That is probably going to cost you $200 million in foreign exchange. I used ten per cent because that is a nice, comfortable number. I did that so that the Senate may have a little guidance such as it is, in analyzing these calls for wage increases in a situation where you have this fiscal situation. It is something to deal with, and we are told not to deal with it because the confidence level will not return.”
Boyce placed some of the responsibility for the state of the economy on the public sector, saying that people transacting business here have been complaining for sometime that productivity in the sector had been a cause for concern.
And he suggested that too many public servants were slacking off and cheating the state by not putting in a fair day’s work.
“The international partners have been rating us that we are not doing so well on doing business. Things are taking too long, they say. Sometimes they are wrong and sometimes they are not wrong. If somebody gets paid a day’s wage, those in the public service or anywhere else who supervises that person should ensure that the person has a day’s work to do. A full day’s work should be measured
in terms of what the person is supposed to produce during that day.
“You hear all sorts of stories of persons working a couple of hours and they get paid for a full day’s work. You hear all kinds of stories that people do not come to work. You also hear of people who come to work early, work late and work hard and produce. What I am saying is that all public officers should be doing that, not just a few of us because we all get paid with the same good money, so we should all be doing it,” the DLP legislator said.
He warned that those who failed to produce were not just hurting their employers, but themselves and the country also. And he advised supervisors to do everything possible to increase productivity.