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St. Lucia PM warns trade unions

CASTRIES — Prime Minister Kenny Anthony has cautioned the Trade Union Federation against forcing government into a financial position where it would then have no choice but to lay off civil servants.

Anthony made the comment ahead of today’s scheduled resumption of negotiations between the government and the Trade Union Federation which is negotiating a salary hike on behalf of public servants.

Last week, union representatives walked out of the talks complaining of being insulted when the government offered a zero per cent increase and a one-off payment of EC$1,000, in response to their request for a 5.5 per cent and 6 per cent increase over 2010-2013.

On Monday during an emergency meeting, public servants mandated their unions not to accept anything less that their initial request of 16 per cent pay hike.

The Prime Minister said while he was aware that the negotiations had not reached a stalemate, he made it clear that the process would not be easy for the unions or the government.

“I say so because we are in a very delicate financial and economic situation, things are difficult and any increase government will have to borrow, we can’t finance any increase from existing revenue at all.

“It is important that all of us recognise that this is a period that requires sacrifices from all sides, not just from the government but also from the private sector and indeed our own employees,” he said.

Anthony said he does not want St. Lucia to go the route of other countries in the region such as Antigua which now has an agreement with the IMF and has been forced to lay off public sector workers.

“We inherited a fiscal deficit of EC$255 million and I expect that this year this deficit will widen for good reason as we have had to borrow significant funds to take care of the rehabilitation following Hurricane Tomas…, so we are in a situation where we don’t have a surplus to play with at all,” he added.

He cautioned that any increases given will have to be borrowed and there is need for understanding and sacrifices on all sides especially in the current economic environment.

The Prime Minister also stated that comparative analysis of public servant salaries in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States compiled by the Ministry of the Public Service revealed that in most cases public servants here are better off than their counterparts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Dominica.

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