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Crucial element being overlooked in pay hike discussion – Eustace

Crucial element being overlooked in pay hike discussion – Eustace

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Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says something important is being overlooked in the discussion of the prime minister’s offer to pay public servants, in December, half of the salary increase owed since January 2011.{{more}}

“While I believe that the public servants have to be paid and it is right that they be paid, we must not forget the fact that there should also have been a salary increase in 2012,” Eustace said last week Monday, October 29, on his New Democratic Party’s (NDP) “New Times” radio programme on NICE Radio.

He further told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that the Government has a three-year contract with public servants.

“This last one with the 3 per cent, is the last part of the last three years. And that ended in 2011. So, negotiations should have been on for a new contract and should have covered 2012, 2013 and 2014,” he said.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Friday that his government is proposing to pay half the money owed — $6 million.

His government, he said, could not afford to pay public servants the full amount.

But Eustace said Monday he was “sure that a number of them would feel good that at least a portion of what is due to them will in fact be paid. They, I assume, will make their own responses in that regard,” he said of the prime minister’s offer.”

But he added: “We have … heard nothing about 2012 in terms of salaries. I don’t know what would happen in the Budget for 2013. We have not heard anything about that either.

“So, in a sense, if it is the government’s policy, then they must say something about those things. If the financial situation is bad and you can’t meet for 2013 any new negotiations for the next couple of years, come out and say so to the public,” he said.

He restated his party’s position that the government ignored its warning to balance the Budget.

“If they had been doing that, as they did in the earlier years and during the NDP (New Democratic Party) time, we would not have been in this crisis.”

Eustace was elected to parliament on an NDP ticket in 1998, but the party was in office from 1984 to 2001.

He said that over the last two years, Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party government has been operating “with over $100 million less than we need and we had in our budget.

“When you are $100 million short, the only way to pay increase is to increase taxes, like we had with the property tax or otherwise go and borrow to pay it, which would increase the national debt.”

Parliament this month passed legislation to tax property owners, within certain categories, a percentage of the market value, rather than rental value of their properties.

Eustace said his party has repeatedly called on the government to be prudent with the management of state finances “so you don’t find yourself in these positions where our people are being asked to sacrifice more and more of what should have been theirs if we had managed properly.

“So, while I know that something would now be paid to the public servants and that would ease some of the pressure, the reality is, it need not to have happened, if we had balanced as we went along. … And now we find ourselves in a position that as people become more restless in the public service, you had to find something to pay them half,” Eustace said.

He further asked where the $6 million was going to come from.

“We will cut back somewhere else. Maybe medical, maybe education … or you going to borrow it,” he said. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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