Outspoken Government minister Donville Inniss has raised the ire of President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall over comments he made at a ruling party political platform last weekend.
Addressing a St Peter meeting of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) on Sunday night, Inniss, the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, cried shame on the state of the present labour movement, while alleging that some trade union leaders had been promised diplomatic posts abroad and could not wait to see the back of the DLP.
However, in response McDowall said derisively: “I wish I was one of those people offered a [diplomatic] post because I would like some money now, especially after the imposition of the NSRL [National Social Responsibility Levy] and having not received a salary increase in almost a decade”.
The NUPW boss also sought to clear the air on the current subvention given to the unions by Government, saying it was for training and there were set criteria for which that money could be used.
“[Therefore], the money is not used for operational expenses. It is not to say that you can take up the training money, and pay bills with it. The money has to be used for training. This policy has been in place for many years with different governments, long before my time,” the NUPW president said in response to Inniss’ suggestion that the unions had been saying “the country is so broke . . . [and] putting all sort of demands on Government, but don’t remind their members or the public about the hefty subvention they get from Government on an annual basis to keep them running.
“Rather than say let us recognize that you have a Government that is bringing enlightened policies and programmes to uplift the masses in society, you have these folks finding every reason to go after the Government in a very aggressive and partisan manner and hiding behind the guise of the union,” Inniss further lamented.
However, McDowall said “the fact is [that] since this Government came into office, that subvention has been reduced significantly. So if the unions were depending on that money to survive we would’ve already died.
“I want to know if Mr Inniss is suggesting that because unions are given a subvention that they should be loyal to the Government. That makes no sense. Our loyalty is to the workers of this country and to no one else!
“To the point of protests, the NUPW marched for the repeal the NSRL and/or a coping subsidy. That is what we did and we have had no regrets. The taxes in this country are killing people. We can’t pay for food at the supermarket, and there must be something to help them deal with the cost of living,” he stressed in light of recent protest action by the unions with the support of the private sector in their bid to get Government to grant them relief from the current level of taxation.
However, to date the Freundel Stuart administration has been sticking to measures announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in his May 30 Budget, including a hike in the NSRL from two to ten per cent.