The island’s largest public sector trade union is optimistic its members will get a salary hike this year even in the face of a pronouncement by the Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Cleviston Haynes that it is unlikely to happen.
On Tuesday, Haynes told a news conference that the only way a pay increase in the public service could be justified was if Government could find savings elsewhere.
However, General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Roslyn Smith interpreted this to mean that the Acting Governor was not ruling out a pay rise and that one was still on the cards.
“Well he said it might be unlikely, but he never, never said we wouldn’t be given a salary [increase]. He said the only realistic way pay increases in the public service could be justified is if Government could find savings elsewhere. So there is no definite ruling out that Government can’t find money for salaries,” Smith told Barbados TODAY.
Asked if the union would be sticking to its 23 per cent pay demand, the NUPW spokeswoman said it was a question of getting back to the bargaining table and negotiating.
“People in Barbados seem not to understand how negotiations work. You can only adjust the submissions if you sit around the table.
“How can I negotiate if I don’t have somebody to negotiate with? How will I be able to come down or up or cross or around when I don’t have somebody to negotiate with?” the NUPW general secretary demanded to know in reference to the stalled wage talks with Government.
While contending that a meeting was crucial, Smith expressed disappointment that the Ministry of the Civil Service had failed to respond to its letters requesting a date for the resumption of pay talks.
Noting that the last time the parties sat around the bargaining table was back in August this year, she said the Ministry of the Civil Service had been given until October 31, 2017 to respond to the union’s request for more talks.
Up to Wednesday afternoon there was still no word from the Ministry with the NUPW serving notice that it was prepared to take industrial action if necessary.
However, Smith declined to go into specifics on the planned protests.
All she would say at this stage is that the public service would be hit shortly by industrial action.
“Public workers are frustrated and they are angry and we feel that the talks [are taking] too long really. I think we need to bring some closure . . . people have expectations and they are looking forward to some kind of pay. Christmas coming, they have their bills to pay. They are being taxed so heavily that they are basically trying to survive and hoping for the best. You can’t treat workers like this,” she said, while arguing that it was one thing to admit that the workers deserved a pay hike, “but at the same time you are still withholding the money”.
Following the 400 per cent increase in the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) back in July, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had promised to carry out a tax review at the end of September to see if a pay rise was affordable.
However, a month later it is still not clear to anyone whether he has completed that assessment.