Government’s offer of a $49 million lump sum payment to civil servants in the form of a coping subsidy has failed to impress the membership of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).
In fact, they have rejected it saying it is simply not enough.
The proposal, which was first discussed at a meeting held two Fridays ago between the union and Government representatives at the office of the Ministry of the Civil Service, was formally made to the union in writing last week.
It is for a one-off payment to the workers, with those at higher end of the salary scale receiving a two per cent payment while those at the lower end would receive five per cent, based on a sliding scale.
To sweeten the offer, Government also proposed to make the payments tax free, and also promised that they would not be subject to any deductions by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
However, at the end of the day the payment still amounts to less than $2,500 for the average worker.
During a sometimes animated meeting this afternoon at the NUPW’s Dalkeith headquarters, which was attended by approximately 300 of its members, it was suggested that Government’s offer was at least $11 million short, with the workers demanding a $2,500 across-the-board payment to carry them over until the completion of protracted wage negotiations.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, NUPW General Treasurer Asokorie Beckles said the union would dispatch the $60 million counterproposal by tomorrow morning, along with a deadline by which Government must respond.
“Coming out of tonight’s members’ meeting we discussed what Government would have proposed to us, which was a sliding scale between two and five per cent. The NUPW members have decided on a counterproposal – the union put forward three [recommendations] to our membership and they have decided to take one of those proposals to the Ministry of the Civil Service to take to the Prime Minister of Barbados,” he said, adding that members were fed up with the length of time the process has been taking.
“Our members are saying that these two years is long enough and they have set a deadline for negotiations to be completed and we also would be sending this to the Ministry of the Civil Service as early as tomorrow,” said Beckles, who did reveal what would happen if the Freundel Stuart administration did respond in the prescribed time frame.
The NUPW, which has demanded for a 23 per cent pay hike, has been joined by the Barbados Workers’ Union, which is asking for a 15 per cent increase for its members, as well as the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and the Barbados Union of Teachers, in requesting a subsidy to help public workers cope with the taxing National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) and other measures imposed by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in his May 30 Budget as part of a $542 million austerity package.
However, NUPW Acting General Secretary Delcia Burke explained that even though Government’s offer was in keeping with the union’s demands for a coping subsidy, it simply was not up to mark.
She pointed that to date the union had only received written scenarios from the Ministry of the Civil Service, which did not constitute a solid offer.
“I think a lot of the problems arose because it was not a firm offer. I think they felt insulted because the Ministry of the Civil Service offered what they called scenarios and in the letter they advised that they would have to take it back to the Prime Minister to have it approved. So as it stands they have not made a firm proposal and the workers felt slighted and insulted because after all this time something concrete should have been on the table,” Burke said.