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Government makes 4.5% wage increase offer to unions

Government makes 4.5% wage increase offer to unions

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Public Servants here have been offered a 4.5 per cent wage increase over two years, with the first payment being a tax free 2.5 per cent increase (retroactive to January 2015) paid by December 18 and the other 2 per cent beginning in January 2016.

And according to president of the Public Service Union (PSU) Elroy Boucher, that offer shows that the industrial action taken by the PSU and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) achieved its objective,{{more}} as the main aim was not to have workers stay away from work, but to force a wage increase for workers.

The increase was offered by Government last Tuesday, during a meeting at Cabinet Room, which was attended by Prime Minister and Minister of finance Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the director general of finance and planning Maurice Edwards and members of the executives of the various public sector unions.

Boucher said that some people, including the Prime Minister, may have described the strike action as unsuccessful, but that is not the case, as the Government has agreed to the salary increase for public servants.

On Tuesday, October 13, 20 per cent of the nation’s teachers and a handful of public servants stayed away from the workplace to protest government’s rejection of a call for the payment of one month’s tax-free salary, in lieu of a salary increase for the last four years.

On Wednesday, during a press conference at the PSU Headquarters at McKies Hill, Boucher stressed that the tax-free salary was only suggested after the Government said that they could not afford an increase, but in reality, the initial negotiations were about the salary increase, which the Government has now agreed to.

And according to Boucher, the objective has now been achieved and the offer will be taken back to the unions’ membership.

“I have heard the analysis; the pundits have declared that the strike action was a failure. I have heard that the Prime Minister made statements that it was a dismal failure. When we analyse failure or success of a strike action, ask the question what is the objective of the action? Is the success of a strike action measured by a turnout? If the objective is to get people to stay home, then there is no need to have a strike action,” stressed Boucher, adding, “the objective of the strike action was simply to get the Government to comply in one way or the other.”

He noted that the strike was also important, as the unions needed to test the commitment of their members in relation to industrial action, hence the one-day strike.

“This is a politically charged country and in order for you to know what is going to be the reaction of your members, there are times when you have to take action to test that out and the result of that told us that persons in the public service would have gone to work for three different reasons,” opined Boucher.

He said that before the strike, persons were asking the union about the security of their jobs, “and there is no secret that public servants operate in an environment of fear. Many persons fear victimization and that is what we have been operating under for a number of years.”

Boucher said also that persons also went to work because their loyalty lies with their political party and not with the union, so those persons saw the strike as a strike against the party and not a strike to deal with issues affecting workers, “and that’s a frightening thing in this country, because parties come and parties go and the union still has to stand for workers.”

The PSU head said that some workers also stayed away because they do not think the Government can afford the increase, “and I have the utmost respect for that position.”

“Those are the reasons, from our investigation, why public servants did not heed the call, but the success was not all about people coming out and the Government has now made a move and prior to that, you heard that nothing can be done, but coming out of Tuesday’s meeting, an offer is on the table to take to the membership.”

Boucher said that, in principle, all the unions represented agreed to the offer. (LC)

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