No more pay restraint!
That was the stern response issued today by the head of the island’s largest trade union to Government’s move to have the salaries of Cabinet ministers and other senior public officials restored to the pre-2013 austerity levels, by way of a ten per cent pay hike.
A resolution to this effect was tabled by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in Parliament on April 15 that will see the Prime Minister’s salary increasing to $203,175.60 ($16,931.30 per month), along with a travel allowance of $54,838.44 ($4,569.87 per month) and official car and residence.
Under the Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries (Remuneration and Allowances) Order 2016, provision is also made for Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, who is the unofficial Deputy Prime Minister, to receive in excess of $20,000 per month, compared to his other ministerial colleagues who will get just short of $17,000 a month, inclusive of allowances.
Terming the move “ridiculous”, NUPW President Akanni McDowall yesterday warned members of the Freundel Stuart administration that if they could afford to pay themselves salary increases, then they must be prepared to do the same for all other public servants.
In fact, McDowall, who has been pressing for a salary increase since the start of the year, said the union would now be upping the ante in terms of its demands, with a pay hike now at the top of its agenda.
“How could you take care of yourself before you take care of the persons who you are serving?”, asked McDowall.
“It is ridiculous,” he said, pointing out that “over and over” the union has been asking Government to grant a pay hike for the 20,000 plus public servants.
However, he said Government had consistently said that it did not have the money and that it was unable to grant increases.
“Now what this has done for me is that it has given me more motivation to go after a salary increase for those public servants. I can definitely assure you now that my number one priority is to make sure that the public servants of Barbados are given a salary increase in the shortest possible time.
“That is my number one priority, number two priority and number three priority,” the union leader told Barbados TODAY in response to Tuesday’s revelation by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley that the ruling Democratic Labour Party administration had tabled a resolution for the restoration of pay to MPs, following the ten per cent pay cut that was announced in December 2013.
Back then, Government had also revealed plans to send home over 3,000 public servants as part of an 18-month austerity programme that was subsequently extended by a year.
It was further agreed that effective January 1, 2014 there would be a freeze on the payment of increments for the two years. That freeze has now ended, so too the majority of cost-saving measures that were implemented at the time.
However, McDowall said he was fortified in his position that Government could actually pay public servants better.
“It is a most definite confirmation that they can afford to pay, not only based on what my people would have shown me, and I am talking here about the committee which I would have put together to analyse the position of the economy, not only based on that, but it is saying to me that since you have enough money that you can now pay yourself, you must have enough money to pay the public servants of this country. It cannot be a situation where you are taking care of yourself, before you take care of the people who you are there to serve,” he insisted.
The union boss was equally adamant that as Government workers continue to hold strain on a salary increase, “there must be some kind of sacrifice on the part of the leadership of the country.
“If you are saying to me that you do not have any money to pay public servants, well then you cannot have money to pay yourself. I cannot be supervising people and pay myself before I pay the people who I am supervising. There is something ethically wrong with that, there is something improper about that. To my mind I think although we have the evidence that you can afford it, I feel, based on the action that they have now decided to take, that we can definitely afford a salary increase,” he reasoned.
However, the NUPW spokesman did not want to reveal the precise amount the union was seeking in terms of a pay hike. He said the union had to negotiate with its representatives before going to Government with its proposal.
“I would want to give all of the relevant parties the opportunity to see the proposal from Government first before I decide to say the amount that we are asking for,” McDowall said.Earlier this year, the union had written to Government requesting an increase in pay as well as certain non-salaried items.
Government had responded asking for clarification of the information.
However, “what we need now is firm dates for the start of negotiations and I think that date should be sooner rather than later based on what was discussed in Parliament yesterday,” added the union official.
Today, Sinckler could not be reached for comment on the matter.
However, he had earlier said that while there were positive signs of a turnaround in the Barbados economy, he was not prepared to commit Government to any additional salary expenditure at this time.
“I don’t want to say ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ but things still remain tight. We are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel; the economy is beginning to turnaround. We can see some economic activity but of course those things take time to gel and to get going, so it really has to be based on the financial affordability of the Government and whether the Government has the capacity to pay,” the Minister of Finance had told Barbados TODAY.
“At the end of the day, is the cash there? That is really the issue,” he had emphasized, adding “I will only know that once all of the numbers are in and that is not now the case, so I certainly would not be able to say that with any degree of confidence.”
However, while there has been no positive word on a pay increase for public servants, based on the 2015-2016 Estimates which were recently approved by Parliament, public servants are in line for $17 million in increments this fiscal year.