The Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) says despite persistent demands over the past year for a 15 per cent wage increase from the previous Freundel Stuart-led Government, it never expected to receive any double-digit pay hike for its members.
In fact, General Secretary Toni Moore told reporters on Thursday that the five per cent increase that was eventually granted by the three-week-old Mia Mottley-led Government is exactly what her union had in mind all along.
Therefore, she said her members were happy with the outcome of the protracted pay talks.
“The increase that was eventually derived is one that is fairly consistent with how the Barbados Workers’ Union viewed the zone of settlement as far back as a year ago. In fact, it was on June 20, 2017 that we met with our members in the public sector to determine where they perceived that they could possibly settle.
“As far back as then, our members were anticipating that we could settle between four and six per cent,” Moore explained.
She however said that a lack of engagement on the part of the former Government had stood in the way of an amicable settlement.
“The challenge was that the [Ministry of the] Civil Service was not meeting with us and even when the Civil Service was under a mandate by the last administration to consider a number of approaches with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), there was no such engagement with the Barbados Workers’ Union,” Moore said.
“So our position remained the signal position that we originally put out, which is consistent with our policy of 15 per cent and we were not given an opportunity to negotiate past that,” she added.
Among the other issues discussed at Thursday’s BWU meeting, was the impact of the $1.2 billion adjustment programme outlined by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mia Mottley on Monday.
In her two-hour long presentation outlining the way forward for the economy, Mottley announced that in addition to the five per cent pay hike for public servants, the minimum non-contributory pension will increase from $155 to $225 per week beginning July 1, 2018.
Among the key measures, Government is also to abolish tuition fees for students pursuing undergraduate studies at the University of the West Indies and replace road tax with a 40-cents-per-litre tax for gasoline and diesel, and five cents for kerosene at the pump.
Moore, who was recently appointed an independent Senator, explained that while workers were not thrilled with the level of taxation imposed upon them, they understood that national sacrifice was necessary in order to stabilize the ailing economy.
She also noted that members were happy that the labour force was not placed on the front line of Government’s austerity programme on this occasion.
“One of the things that we were trying to achieve as a union is not having workers bear more than their fair share of any adjustment and so far we have been reasonably successful in achieving that. However we recognize that in the coming months there would be further adjustment and we want to ensure that this current approach is maintained,” she said, while stressing that job cuts were not the answer.
“Having persons sent home is never a foremost consideration of the union. One of the things we think there is opportunity for and that we have committed to is the need for efficiencies to be tapped into across the whole public sector.
“We anticipate going forward there would be a more comprehensive look at making the public sector more efficient and numbers at this stage is not a consideration. Where the foremost consideration would be is where there is duplication. One department may not need the resources they have and those resources could be transferred to another department. [However], we do not intend to rush and have the Government as employer adopt any cutlass approaches,” she added.