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Teachers’ Union demands full 3 per cent payment

Teachers’ Union demands full 3 per cent payment

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Two trade unions say their executives will meet this week, as the government offers to pay public servants in December, half of the 3 per cent salary increase owed since January 2011.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who was overseas, said in a pre-recorded radio and television Independence address Friday, that his government cannot afford to pay the full 3 per cent owed — $12 million.

He said the Government could pay half of the amount, retroactive to January 2011.

“My government has to keep its solemn promise to pay them (public servants) the 3 per cent salary increase due since 2011,” he, however, said.

“All of us are required to make the requisite sacrifice to meet the public servants at least part of the way. I rely, too, on the public servants continuing reasonableness and extraordinary love of country,” he further said, before proposing the “resolution — at least partially”.

But Oswald Robinson, president of the Teachers Union, told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that his union is still demanding the full payment.

“… we have not changed our position. The membership took a decision that we needed 3 per cent by December, so that is the position of the Teachers’ Union,” he said, adding that the executive will meet on Friday, ahead of a pre-planned general meeting in November.

“… this is something that is overdue,” Robinson said of the outstanding monies.

“It is not a salary increase. It is a cost of living adjustment. Everything … [has] gone up the ladder — electricity, water bill, property tax, you name it,” he further said.

Meanwhile, Cools Vanloo, head of the Public Service Union, told SEARCHLIGHT separately yesterday that the government had not “officially communicated to the union in writing or anything.

“Before that announcement, … we were supposed to have a meeting in November, where we were supposed to meet the union and discuss. So the announcement was made and I don’t know the content of it,” said Vanloo, who said he had not heard the prime minister’s address.

“I don’t know what is happening with the outstanding 1.5 per cent, what he is saying about that,” Vanloo further said.

“The prime minister could have made this thing a lot easier,” Vanloo said.

“… Last year December, when we met with the prime minister, the PSU proposed a 1.5 per cent [increase] as of January and then the 1.5 per cent retroactive as of December 2012, which would have given us the 3 per cent in 2012,” Vanloo further said.

“I can’t say anything because I don’t know what the prime minister’s arithmetic is all about…” he further said.

SEARCHLIGHT was unsuccessful in repeated attempts to reach Noel Jackson and Joseph Burns Bonadie, leader of the National Workers Movement and the Commercial Allied and Technical Workers Movement, respectively.

No written notice

And Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that he had not written to the unions outlining his proposal.

“No, nothing has been put in writing to them. But, I mean, the prime minister gives an Independence Day address and say I will pay you in your pay packet 1.5 per cent. I mean —” Gonsalves said by telephone.

Asked how his government would respond if the unions maintain that the full 3 per cent be paid, Gonsalves said: “What I said is what I can do.”

He further said there was no indication when his government would be able to pay the other 1.5 per cent.

“This 1.5 per cent salary increase would have to be paid as a matter of course on the salary bill for 2013 and continuing. I intend to hold further discussions with the public sector trade unions about the status of the other 1.5 per cent of the pledged salary increase,” Gonsalves said in his address.

The announcement that the government could pay half of the monies comes after three years of economic decline, based on Eastern Caribbean Central Bank statistics.

But the International Monetary Fund has said the Vincentian economy has declined for the past four years.

Gonsalves said that because of the inbuilt incremental system of increases for public servants, the salary bill so far this year for the central government has increased by 2.7 per cent, despite the non-payment of the 3 per cent salary increase.

So far this year, expenditure on pensions has increased by about 5 per cent,” he further said.

“For every 1 per cent increase in the salary bill for public servants, there is an additional $2 million a year required. So, a 3 per cent increase in 2011 would amount to six million [dollars] and at least another 6 million [dollars] for 2012.

“Thus, if my Government has to pay the entire 3 per cent now, backdated to January 2011, the sum of $12 million will be required. That additional sum is simply not available,” Gonsalves said.

“But, I am determined to meet the public servants halfway by Christmas 2012,” he said, as he proposed the 1.5 per cent salary increase, backdated from January 2011 to December 2012, costing the Treasury an additional $6 million.

He said the “immediate payment of a further $6 million constrains, restrains my government in the pursuance of some other items of expenditure.

“There is one pot of money and sacrifices are required all around. But it would be unreasonable to expect the poor and disadvantaged to sacrifice for those who are in much better circumstances than themselves. As always, I shall do my best. You know the mettle of the captain, not when the seas are calm and smooth, but when they are rough and dangerous,” Gonsalves said. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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