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Government, CTAWU and NWM agree to terms of salary increase

Government, CTAWU and NWM agree to terms of  salary  increase
Representatives of the Commercial Technical and Allied Workers Union (CTAWU) and National Workers Movement (NWM) met with a Government delegation including Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves (extreme left) and Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves (second from left) last Friday at Cabinet Room. Representatives of three other worker entities did not participate.

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Public sector workers can expect a one per cent increase retroactive from July 1, 2018, 1.5 per cent from January 2019, and two per cent for 2020 on their salaries.

This was the decision made at a meeting last Friday between the Government and representatives from the Commercial Technical and Allied Workers’ Union (CTAWU) and the National Workers Movement (NWM).

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, while speaking on Star FM on Friday evening said that the increases were agreed upon after discussion on various factors affecting the country.

“I gave an outline as to where we are, gave a historical overview from 2008, coming down to 2018, where we are at the beginning of 2019, the situation, economic growth in the country, the fiscal condition of the government, broad projects – the major ones, what stage of preparation they were and what we intended to do this year and we told them we were fairly upbeat about 2019 and 2020 on the basis of what happened in 2018,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that there were salary increases for 2015 and 2016, but none in 2017 or 2018. He further said that each percentage point increase will cost the government approximately $3 million.

“The economy last year grew in the region of two and a half per cent. We didn’t have economic growth in…the last half of 2008 nor in 2009 and 2010. And then between 2011 and 2018, we had marginal, to what you may call modest to moderate growth and last year, we saw a very positive uptick. I know the IMF gave a very positive report on the economy,” Gonsalves explained.

“So I’m looking at how we did last year and the prospects going forward, we say well, we will share some of this; bearing in mind, in 2001 and 2018, in real terms, the public servants, teachers, nurses, doctors, they got significant wage increases, salary enhancements and of course the reclassification.”

Representatives from three other entities: the Public Service Union (PSU), the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) and the Police Welfare Association (PWA) were also invited to be a part of the meeting. But these representatives chose not to attend when they were told that they had to surrender their cellular phones or leave them outside the meeting room at the Prime Minister’s Office.

And the Prime Minister said that surrendering one’s cellular phone at the security check point at his office is a security requirement that has always been practiced.

“The Public Service Union and the Teachers’ Union lost the opportunity to have a discussion on this matter and so too the Police Welfare Association. Now this is a free and democratic country. If we have security regulations and you don’t want to abide with them, then you stay away from the meeting, but the government goes on,” Gonsalves said.

“I can’t hold up my work because the leadership of the Public Service Union, the leadership of the Teachers’ Union and the leadership of the Police Welfare Association don’t want to come and abide by the security arrangements at the office of the Prime Minister and engage in discussion with me, the minister of finance, the minister of labour and the staff of ministry of finance. And there it is; that is – in a nutshell – a summation on the central issue of wage enhancements.”

According to a statement dated January 14, 2019 and signed by Joseph Burns Bonadie on behalf of the CTAWU, Noel Jackson on behalf of the NWM and Gonsalves, on behalf of the government, Friday’s meeting lasted for three hours.

It also states that “the CTAWU, the NWM and the GOSVG consider these increases to be fair and reasonable in all the prevailing circumstances”.

“The CTAWU, NWM and the GOSVG expressed satisfaction at the improvement in the economy as attested to late last year by the Staff Report of the International Monetary Fund on the occasion of the usual Article IV Consultation,” the statement said. “The CTAWU, NWM and the GOSVG while being upbeat of the economic prospects in the medium term are very mindful of the challenges ahead and possible downside risks, including externally-sourced challenges and natural disasters.”

The statement said that the unions present at Friday’s meeting and the government agreed to a detailed discussion on allowances, other worker benefits and allowances and the unions are expected to submit memoranda in those respects shortly.

Government officials who attended Friday’s meeting included the minister of finance, Camillo Gonsalves; the minister of labour, Saboto Caesar; the director general of finance and planning, Edmund Jackson; the budget director Ken Morris; the cabinet secretary, Kattian Barnwell; and the fiscal advisor to the Government and former director general of finance and planning, Maurice Edwards.

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