You can forget all about the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) demands for a 23 per cent pay hike for its members. Those demands by this island’s largest public sector union have apparently died with the last Government.
Today, the NUPW, which had been holding the feet of the Freundel Stuart-led administration to the fire for more than a year in support of its demands for a double-digit pay hike, made a major about turn on the issue.
Barbados TODAY understands that after initially rejecting the significantly reduced offer from the new Government yesterday of a 4.5 per cent increase over three years, the union’s national council met today and approved the single digit salary offer, with only one council member abstaining and all others voting in favour of the proposed hike of two per cent in the first year, 1.5 per cent in the second and one per cent in the third for the 2016 to 2019 negotiating period.
At the same time, the NUPW has no intention of relinquishing outstanding backpay covering the period 2011 to 2016. However, informed sources say they are prepared to put those talks on hold for the time being, as Government begins formal negotiations on a balance of payments support programme with the International Monetary Fund.
Today, NUPW President Akanni McDowall was tightlipped on the offer, saying he did not want to circumvent the ongoing negotiations with the Ministry of the Civil Service.
“We don’t want share the details until Government agrees to what exactly we are discussing because technically speaking we are still negotiating. So once Government accepts what the union is suggesting, which is in line with what they are offering, then we would explain to the public what the proposals are,” he said, while confirming that the union had accepted the latest pay offer from Government.
However, the NUPW president said there would be certain conditionalities attached to the wage increase, which amounts to a major step down by the union from its pre-election pay demands.
“We had a meeting this morning of the council to discuss the proposal presented to us by the Ministry of the Civil Service. Those discussions lasted for approximately an hour and we came up with a decision where we would look favourably on the proposal sent to us by Government. It is now up to the Government to determine whether or not they agree, but once it is finally agreed, public servants should be a little happier,” is all that McDowall would say on the current pay proposal.
It was last December that the then Stuart-led Government had offered the union a $49 million lump sum payment that would have seen civil servants at the higher end of the salary scale receiving a two per cent payment for one year and those at the lower end a five per cent hike, based on a sliding scale.
To sweeten the deal, the former Government had also proposed to make the payments tax free and devoid of any National Insurance deductions.
However, the proposal still did not sit well with the NUPW’s executives who said the payments would have amounted to less than $2,500 per worker.
This gave rise to demands by the union for $11 million more.
A breakdown of talks followed with the NUPW opting to embark on industrial action last January to little effect and following the dissolution of Parliament in March, the Stuart administration announced that it would be ceasing all salary negotiations with the union given the poor state of economy.
However, during the recent election campaign Mottley had promised that the first order of business would be to meet with the trade unions to secure a pay increase for the workers.
At that time, the then Opposition leader had also declared that if there was no agreement within three months of talks, a cost of living allowance would be paid to every public servant.