More pay and less tax are what the Congress of Trade Union and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) says it plans to go after in the coming weeks.
And the umbrella body has put Government on notice that it expects timely consultation on these matters.
CTUSAB’s President Cedric Murrell threw down the gauntlet this afternoon, while speaking to reporters at the union’s first press conference for the year at its ‘Jessamine Cot’, Beckles Road, St Michael headquarters.
Also in attendance was the union’s General Secretary Dennis Depeiza and President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union Mary Redman.
Noting that the last wage increase for public servants was in 2009, Murrell said while he understood the country had been through tough economic times, the time had come for workers to be justly rewarded.
“So it is not that we are unmindful of what may occur, but we are mindful that if we do not work assiduously to be able to reward persons for their efforts and people continue to believe that there is no hope for a salary increase, or certainly an improvement in their take home pay, then it conduces to persons not being as productive as they otherwise might be,” he said.
“So the Congress is saying that we would expect as we get to the bargaining table in 2016, that the matter of wages and salaries will be addressed in terms of an increase, but at the same time, a reduction in the level of taxation in some areas.
“The two of those we believe working in constant with each other can make a difference to the expectation of our members and can make a difference to the confidence in the economy,” Murrell insisted.
However, the President lamented an unwillingness by employers to sit at the negotiating table in recent years.
Referring to it as a “worrying trend”, he said he hoped the practices of employers in 2016 would not mirror those of 2014 and 2015.
“One of the worrying trends for us in the Congress is that for us to carry out our agenda. It is necessary for the consultative mechanisms to work, and to work in such a way that the workers’ representatives are heard by the persons representing the employers.
“You are aware, just as I am, that we have heard from some of our affiliates that the process has been stymied often times because the representatives of the employer, whether they are public or private sector, are disinclined to sit at the table and to speak candidly and to consult in such a way that agreements can be reached,” the CTUSAB head said.
“And so that overall deficiency that we see, has conduced over time to us having to come to the public and to speak in such a way as to expose the fact that the conservative mechanism is not being honoured . . . by the employers.”
Responding to a suggestion that the unions’ willingness to sit down at the bargaining table for lengthy periods had led to the public viewing them as “toothless”, Murrell maintained nothing was further from the truth.
He however admitted that there had been a shift in how the unions now do business.
“There has been a shift perceptively in how we seek to resolve and to move back from the brink, but the teeth are still there and last year there were sharpened . . .,” Murrell suggested.
“But that’s not what we believe should define trade unionism. What should define trade unionism and industrial relations is the ability of the sides to sit and to reach harmonious agreements wherever we can.”