Trade union leaders have already started comparing a proposal for “forced savings” in the public sector with the eight per cent salary cuts rolled out by the Erskine Sandiford administration in 1991 as they await further details next week.
General Secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn and his contemporary in the National Union of Public Workers, Delcia Burke in separate interviews indicated that the imposition of salary cuts on the meager salaries of most public servants could have disastrous consequences.
In fact, Franklyn has even accused Prime Minister Mia Mottley of opening the door for private sector employers to cut salaries with impunity.
“Civil servants are at the baller. They are at their limit and most of them cannot afford any cuts whatsoever. Many have mortgages and all kinds of bills to pay, even for their cars,” Franklyn told Barbados TODAY.
“Some of them barely have enough money to take them through the month and this is not unknown to the Government, because in 1991, when Sandiford did the eight per cent cut, it wiped out people’s take-home pay. People were taking home less than eight per cent of their salaries prior and when they took eight per cent out, people had no money. The same can be said today,” he argued.
Prime Minister Mottley yesterday floated a Government proposal to have an undisclosed percentage of salaries invested in bonds to be redeemed at a later date. This matter, she indicated, had come up during a meeting of the social partnership convened yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
In response to the proposed measures, Franklyn also contended that Barbadians would likely have no faith in government bonds in light of the losses incurred by bondholders under government’s 2018 debt restructuring programme.
Instead, Franklyn, who also serves as the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) spokeperson on labour echoed recent calls for Mottley to adjust her “bloated cabinet” and shed advisors.
“They say that Barbadians have short memories, but your memories cannot be so short to forget that this Government came in and wiped out the savings bonds that you had and now want to give us more bonds? We would have to be suckers for punishment.
“What Mia needs to do is get rid of that monstrosity around her that she calls her advisors. Get rid of them, because they are serving no useful purpose. Then she has this large cabinet also not serving a useful purpose and then she will see the types of savings that she wants to achieve,” argued the Senator.
The NUPW’s acting General Secretary Delcia Burke, who attended the social partnership meeting on Thursday indicated that the proposal was announced without “any real meat or details” and her team would be waiting anxiously for further discussions next week.
While she acknowledged that Mottley’s proposal is not quite the same as Sandiford’s eight per cent cut, she agreed that any adjustment to salaries could hurt “just as much”.
“We understand that the Government has not been collecting taxes and tourists obviously can’t come here. But I know there are many public servants out there who don’t even carry home a big percentage of their pay and by the time you look at their deductions, they barely have enough money left,” Burke told Barbados TODAY.
“Some persons may not mind the forced savings because they might see it as something they might get back later. But I know that most public servants will not be able to afford that,” she further contended.
The General Secretary added that as the situation unfolds, the union’s council would meet with the intention of discussing the issues with all members at a later date.
Franklyn meanwhile charged that private sector employers have already been using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to exploit workers and described the PM’s announcement as a green light to continue.
“Accountants have told me that the directors of some companies, which have not suffered major losses during the shutdown are still demanding salary cuts as deep as 20 per cent. These people are just taking advantage of people because of this COVID thing and the PM has led the charge with this thing,” said the concerned leader.
While Barbados TODAY’s efforts to contact officials from the Barbados Workers’ Union were unsuccessful, General Secretary Toni Moore previously stressed that the economic burden of COVID-19 ought to be equitably shared in the same way it was shared during the rollout of Barbados’ Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
“The BWU will not be party to any discussions to facilitate approaches that keep some rich while hastening the race to the bottom for the poor. Wages cannot be allowed to slide below levels which enable workers to participate meaningfully in society and ergo, any recommendations by the Executive Council on these matters can only be offered upon the analysis of clear and complete information,” she said in a statement obtained by Barbados TODAY. [email protected]