A former minister for labour in the Owen Arthur adminisration has defended the Government’s five per cent pay hike for public workers in the face of Opposition criticisms that it is too small.
As the Senate debated the Public Service (General) Order, 2018 – which provides for the increase – Deputy President of the Senate Rudolph Greenidge said it was not the magnitude but the attitude of the Government that was praise-worthy.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had a history of giving public servants increases whenever it could, Greenidge declared as he reminisced on his time in Cabinet.
“Almost every time that opportunity came. It was though we were happy and willing [to give]. And I remember, too, when we came to office, the [the Erskine] Sandiford Administration had just done its eight per cent cut,” he recalled, adding that the successor BLP regime had kept a promise to restore that eight per cent to all public officers.
“And we went further. I was the Minister of Labour at the time. I led off that debate, a debate in which we said, never again in the history of this country, would a Government be allowed to cut public servants’ salaries,” the Government Senator reminded the Upper Chamber of Parliament of the Arthur administration’s constitutional amendment to outlaw pay cuts in the civil service.
He contended that caring for civil servants is part of the DNA of the BLP. While acknowledging that the across-the-board pay increase could have been more, it at least gave “a sense of hope and shows a willingness and yearning on the part of the Government.
“This is a leap of faith – just five percent – a leap of faith. It is where you are coming from…from 10 years without a cent. But this to me is like the widow’s mite. It shows a direction in which this party wants to go. It tells what it will do if things were better,” Greenidge noted, describing as a spiteful act its public sector wage freeze.
He recalled that Stuart had said to not even raise the matter of a salary increase at the bargaining table. “The only thing they kept giving was taxes, taxes and more taxes,” the former Minister of Labour declared.