Government budges

Public servants offered coping subsidy as wage talks resume

After more than a year of sometimes contentious and bitter negotiations with Government for a pay rise for civil servants, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is reporting that the Freundel Stuart administration has finally budged and has placed an offer on the table.

However, both the NUPW and the Ministry of the Civil Service remained tight-lipped on the offer, which was made when the two sides resumed talks at the ministry today for the first time since August.

“There is indeed a proposal on the table and we need to discuss with our membership first before we disclose to the public what those details are,” NUPW President Akanni McDowall told the media this afternoon.

However, sources familiar with the negotiations told Barbados TODAY that Government was now willing to offer a coping subsidy in the interim, until the two sides can agree a new deal.

The NUPW, which has demanded for a 23 per cent pay hike, has been joined by the Barbados Workers’ Union, which is asking for a 15 per cent increase, as well as the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and the Barbados Union of Teachers, in requesting a subsidy to help public workers cope with the taxing National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) and other measures imposed by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in his April 30 Budget as part of a $542 million austerity package.

An upbeat NUPW President Akanni McDowall (left) kisses the security guard as he exited the Ministry of the Civil Service today, along with President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union Mary Redman.

It was not immediately clear if the subsidy will come in a lump sum or paid monthly, or how much has been offered.

While the development represents a departure from Government’s longstanding offer of zero per cent increase, it is still not clear if public workers will accept it.

They were due to meet at 5 p.m. today at the union’s headquarters on Dalkeith Road, St Michael to discuss the proposal, but McDowall said that after the close to four hours of talks with the Ministry of the Civil Service, the “promised written offer” had not reached the NUPW by the scheduled start of the afternoon’s union meeting.

“We had a meeting this morning, the meeting lasted about three [to] four hours and the ministry was able to put something on the table for us to discuss. The union decided that we would bring that proposal back to the membership before we decided whether or not we would agree with it,” McDowall said.

“We told the ministry that we need their proposal [in writing] before we could discuss it with the membership, but unfortunately, up the start of the meeting we had not received that proposal in writing. Therefore, we had no choice but to postpone the meeting until we receive that correspondence,” he added.

The union boss revealed last week that after several months of stalled negotiations, the Ministry of the Civil Service had expressed a willingness to resume talks this week, with an initial date of December 13, but later postponed to today.

The development came after the union dispatched a letter to the ministry back in October in which it stated in no uncertain terms that it would not return to the bargaining table if Government did not budge from its offer of a zero per cent pay increase.

The fact that the ministry requested a resumption of the talks led McDowall to predict that Government would offer “something substantial”.

The Prime Minister had promised at the ruling Democratic Labour Party luncheon on July 23 to review the NSRL at the end of September with a view to determining whether Government would be able to afford the proposed pay hike, or the coping subsidy. It is a position which Stuart repeated during a televised meeting of the Social Partnership at the Hilton Barbados Resort on August 11.

However, nothing was heard from Government following that promise, prompting the NUPW to accuse the Prime Minister of breaking his promise to restart the stalled talks.

The union had also threatened industrial action, saying it had it up to its neck with the administration.

Ahead of today’s offer, the suggestion was also made that it could be construed as a general election gimmick, now that the poll is around the corner.

However, the NUPW boss was adamant that all praise should go the trade union movement for its persistence in this matter.

“I know the Government has refused to give public servants a salary increase even though the unions have shown time and time again that they can afford it. I think any right thinking Barbadian would know that the unions have been constantly fighting for salary increases so any credit for salary increases would have to go to the trade union movement,” McDowall said.

17 Responses to Government budges

  1. Sheldine Dyall
    Sheldine Dyall December 15, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Good work

  2. Maria Benn
    Maria Benn December 15, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    Did someone say general election?

  3. milli watt December 15, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    will never see a blind cent this year for sure……a short beat in dem and everybody goin fall down

  4. Chris Alleyne
    Chris Alleyne December 16, 2017 at 12:39 am

    good for the public servants. Now what about the rest of the population?

  5. Allison Brewster
    Allison Brewster December 16, 2017 at 12:57 am

    Tisha Ward

  6. Earl Crichlow
    Earl Crichlow December 16, 2017 at 1:13 am

    Time to cash in ppl…tings happening….general election around the corner….rubbing palms slowly with a sinister laugh.

  7. luther thorne December 16, 2017 at 1:54 am

    Bare Tricks !

    Lets have
    No Tricks in 2018

  8. Ralph White
    Ralph White December 16, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Perfect timing just before elections…

  9. harry turnover December 16, 2017 at 7:36 am

    When I see it happen then I would believe it.If DEM did REALLY interested in giving the workers something they would have said so last month so that they would have gotten it before x mas.
    Elections round de corner..BUT WHICH CORNER ? until I see their full slate of candidates ,I would continue to say that Stuart gine to the baller again.
    Looks though that DEM still in know if Mara staying or bolting.

  10. MARIA Holder December 16, 2017 at 7:59 am

    I want my refunds

  11. Dana Jemmott
    Dana Jemmott December 16, 2017 at 8:50 am

    This is what Liz Thompson was talking about DISTRACTIONS

  12. Mackar December 16, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    They tax you to death, then promised to give you a one percent back then, there is dancing in the streets. Only in Barbados.

  13. Helicopter(8P) December 16, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I am glad to get good news on behalf of the secondary teachers recomendation to recive a hansome 15% sallry increase. To the average worker’s wages standards that a substantial increase especially if back pay is included! with that good news every house hold should be at least spending a Joyous Christmas if not a gifted Boxing Day! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  14. Rechelle December 16, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Oh for elections……

  15. Belfast. December 16, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Sanitation Workers appointed. Things are looking up for Public Workers. A subtle form of vote buying?


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