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Jackson: Salary offer not enough, but acceptable

Jackson: Salary offer not enough, but acceptable

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Trade unionist Noel Jackson says the 1.5 per cent salary increase Government is proposing to pay public servants “is not enough,” but acceptable in the circumstances.{{more}}

“I have looked at the situation and I am of the opinion that the offer made by the prime minister is within the context of the financial situation that the country is facing,” Jackson, president of the National Labour Congress (NLC), told SEARCHLIGHT Tuesday.

The Government has owed public servants a 3 per cent salary increase since January 2011.

And Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, said on Friday, that his administration is offering to pay, in December, 1.5 per cent of that money, backdated to January 2011.

Jackson said the Public Service Union (PSU) has not sought the opinion of the NLC, of which it is a member.

“So it appears that they feel that they can go it alone. So, if they feel that what the prime minister is offering them is not sufficient, then they are in a position to take the necessary action to get whatever they want,” said Jackson, who is also general-secretary of the National Workers Movement (NWM).

PSU leader Cools Vanloo told SEARCHLIGHT Monday that the prime minister’s offer was not communicated to his union in writing.

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

And Oswald Robinson, president of the Teachers’ Union, told SEARCHLIGHT in a separate interview on Monday, that his union is still demanding the full payment.

Both unions say they are to meet this week to discuss the offer.

But Jackson said he believes that pressuring the government to pay the full 3 per cent would be “taking a gamble”.

“At this point, I think they would be taking a gamble to push the government in that direction, because it may very well have some negative consequences.

“It could be very important projects and programmes that are to be funded may not be funded,” Jackson said.

He noted that when the government pays the 1.5 per cent increase, “every month thereafter, the government has to come up with … the additional funds to pay to the public servants.

“From my understanding, from where I sit, and being a private contractor, I know the difficulty private contractors face at the end of each month to get payment.

“Because you are being told that they have to pay the public servants first and you have to wait. And sometimes, the private contractors are not paid until the 20th of the next month. Now, that tells you that there is financial constraints elsewhere. … And we have to take that into consideration,” Jackson said.

“So, really and truly, I am of the view that at this juncture, if the government has offered to pay 1.5 [per cent], I think that what should happen is that there should be dialogue as to how the next 1.5 [per cent] is going to be paid and see if they can work out something.”

He said prices are increasing, adding that he had bought on Monday, two small heads of lettuce for $8.

“And that is what the worker has to face. But, at the same time, we got to understand also what the country is facing and work inside that framework.

“If we start to go out, it could have some negative impact and some negative consequences for not only that group of workers, but workers in general. And those are the concerns that I have. Not that I don’t think that the workers deserve the 1.5. In fact, the 1.5 per cent is not enough,” Jackson said.

The 3 per cent salary increase, if paid in full, would cost the Treasury $12 million. Gonsalves said his government could not afford the full amount.

(kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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