The dark cloud of industrial action is once again looming over the Freundel Stuart administration, with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) warning that it has had it up to its neck with the myriad broken promises to restart the stalled public sector wage negotiations.
NUPW President Akanni McDowall told Barbados TODAY that the Prime Minister’s promise, made during the televised meeting of the Social Partnership at the Hilton Barbados Resort on August 11, to quickly restart the protracted pay talks, has not been kept, even though the union has formally written to the Ministry of Civil Service demanding that they return to the negotiating table by October 31.
“We have given the Ministry of Civil Service until the end of October to respond and if they don’t do it we will then take industrial action. We have to ‘up de ting’ because they have not even acknowledged our letters,” said McDowall.
He recalled that the Prime Minister had initially promised at the ruling Democratic Labour Party luncheon on July 23 to review the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) at the end of September with a view to determining whether Government would be able to afford the proposed pay hike, or a subsidy demanded by the unions, to help public servants cope with the taxing NSRL until the two sides agree a deal on pay increases. It is a position which Stuart repeated at the August 11 national consultation with trade unions and employers.
And in view of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s recent pronouncement that the NSRL had raked in $50 million in the three months since it was increased to ten per cent from two per cent, the NUPW, which has demanded a 23 per cent pay rise for its members, is insisting that Stuart must keep his promise and pay up.
Speaking in Parliament earlier this month, as he introduced the National Social Responsibility Amendment Bill 2017, giving legislative teeth to the NSRL increase, Sinckler said the controversial levy had raked in $50 million between July 1 and September 30, adding that this figure did not include the Value Added Tax earned on the levy.
It is based on these upbeat figures that the union is sticking to its wages demand for civil servants, who have not had a pay rise in nine years.
“We want to continue negotiations, especially based on what the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance would have said at the Social Partnership meeting. We need to have a meeting to determine what the salary increase would be, because that could only be the logical place for the discussion at the moment.
“The question is no longer whether or not public servants will receive a salary increase because all of the indicators that the Prime Minister has been waiting on have been successful. So it is time for us to talk money,” the NUPW boss stressed, adding that the push for a coping subsidy until the completion of wage negotiations was still very much on the table.