Unions’ pay position unrealistic – economist

With the Barbados economy seemingly on its knees, a former Central Bank of Barbados economist says it would be “reckless” for Government to increase the wages and salaries of public servants at this time.

Carlos Forte, a senior economist at the Ontario Ministry of Finance, has therefore seriously chastised the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers Union over their positions on the issue, saying they were “either misguided, disingenuous or unrealistic” with their demands.

The NUPW has been seeking a 23 per cent pay hike, while sister union, the BWU, has been pressing for a 15 per cent increase for public officers who have not had a pay rise in nearly a decade.

Following last May’s Budget, the unions have also been arguing that their members are now faced with greater hardships as a result of the $542 million austerity package announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, and should at the very least be granted a coping subsidy.

However, Forte warns that with the national debt currently standing at more than 140 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and Government still grappling with a fiscal deficit of about six per cent of GDP, it “simply cannot afford an increase in the wages of public sector workers at this time, and certainly not an increase in the magnitude that the unions have been demanding”.

“[In fact] it would be reckless to provide a wage increase at this time,” he told Barbados TODAY in a telephone interview from Toronto this week in view of the revelation made by then Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell back in February that in order not to “cause disaster in the economy” the Central Bank was forced to come up with about $50 million every month to pay public sector workers because the Barbados Revenue Authority was not earning enough to cover the monthly bills”.

At the end of the first quarter this year, Worrell’s successor, Acting Governor Cleviston Haynes had also warned that if Government were to grant pay rises, it would be forced to introduce other measures to “compensate” for the additional expenditure.

With that in mind, Forte suggested that the Freundel Stuart administration was not without fault in this situation since in his estimation it should have formally negotiated a wage freeze back in 2010, so that today retroactive pay demands would not be on the table.

Forte also suggested that the Stuart administration had undermined its economic credibility on the issue by restoring the ten per cent it had cut from parliamentarians’ salaries on the basis that it was intended to be temporary and the 19-month programme had ended.

“Of course the 2017 Budget laid bare the folly of that argument,” Forte said, suggesting that Government’s timing on the pay restoration could not have been any worse.

“Quite frankly, my view was that they should not have cut their salaries in the first place as that was tokenism. Rather, as a demonstration of solidarity, the Prime Minister should have reduced the number of [members] sitting in the Senate and parliamentary secretaries,” Forte said.

6 Responses to Unions’ pay position unrealistic – economist

  1. Alwin Ellis
    Alwin Ellis September 22, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    This is coming from a former Lackey of the said Government

    • Mark My Word September 23, 2017 at 10:47 am

      A Lackey calling some body a Lackey
      Jehovah come fuh yuh world do.

  2. Breadfruit. September 22, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Here is my little five bits for consideration

    September 16, 2017 at 11:26 am
    1. Tie the government worker pay increases to the increase in GDP.
    Example: increase of 5% gdp all government workers get a 1% increase and a 2% bonus.
    Any GDP increase under 2% no increase in pay but a small bonus.
    Put the increase in pay low to keep down the government salary and wages bill. Make the bonuses larger and pay out in early December
    2. Any government entity that makes a profit would have an additional bonus for its workers.
    Ex: Transport board make a $10M profit then the workers get to share 1M or 2M equally between them (amount shared by the workers would be a fix percentage of the profits). This would make the worker unofficial part owners and they will thrive to get the biggest bonuses possible thus increase their productivity.
    Now tell me which union would not agree to something like this for the benefit of the workers and also the good of the country?
    Who with me on this?

    September 16, 2017 at 11:30 am
    Government entities that does not bring in revenue and therefore cannot make a profit(SSA etc) would share, as a bnuses, the funds that they saved if they come in under the budget for the financial year.

  3. hcalndre September 23, 2017 at 4:28 am

    @Breadfruit: the government is not in a business to make a profit, its there to provide services through taxation. I listen to the call-in programs, especially on CBC and get the most misinformation from the host and callers that are apologist for the failing government. Forte did not surprised me when he spoke about the short sightedness of the PM Stewart to restore the 10% to the ministers and himself and to hear them saying how their living has not been the same as though most of them were born like that lady most of them envy but had no sympathy for the 3000 plus workers that were sent home.

  4. Breadfruit. September 23, 2017 at 6:00 am

    My recommendation was not made for this government, which is a the end of its term, but for the future government, trade unions and Barbados going forward.

  5. Susan Maynard
    Susan Maynard September 23, 2017 at 7:47 am

    I will like to see the government low the fee for u.w.i. so the poor one can get back into school. wait man the government say, when the country get good they will get back them 10per cents so tell me the country good now because them get back them money,


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