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Public Servants got best salary package in years

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09.NOV.07

Editor: I have listened to the NDP’s feeble response to one of the best salary packages given to workers in years, and, as usual, without providing a constructive alternative to what they would offer if they were in Government, they have once again descended into dreamland.{{more}}

In dreamland they wonder if the salaries were negotiated? This is really a feeble response, but the intention here is for the country to believe that the Union’s leadership is weak and ineffective and that Prime Minister Gonsalves is a dictator. The truth is, the negotiation was very tough and forthright, but it was conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Our case for 15% was very strong and convincing, but based on all the available economic data, the decision was in the best interest of the country. Decisions taken in the best interest of the country are also in the best interest of workers.

However, in responding to the central question being asked by the NDP, I want to remind the country of the following:

The NDP legislated salaries from 1984-1998. The 1996 National Executive report of The SVGTU notes “That the Union has submitted salary proposals and was expected to negotiate salaries for the first time. Regrettably, the Prime Minister appointed a Salaries Review Committee which has since submitted recommendations for the entire Civil Service. These proposals have been accepted and implemented by the Government.”

The average annual salary increase during that period was 3-4%.

The Annual Christmas bonus of $250 is much more that the majority of teachers received retroactively during any one of the NDP Salary Increases.

The NDP implemented a three year salary cycle when it was politically expedient for them to do so. The ULP Government is using a two year salary cycle.

In 1998, the SVGTU submit a 30% salary increase for a three year period.

The NDP’s counter-proposal for the same three year period was 5%.

Comment Number 2: I am very concerned about the workers from grade 1-8

At times like this, I really miss Glen Jackson, because he would have refreshed persons minds and replayed the Hon Leader of the Opposition’s 1999 address when he implied that teachers would not get one red cent more and that money does not grow on trees. Clearly, Prime Minister Gonsalves has demonstrated that money doesn’t have to grow on trees for workers to be given a decent salary increase.

It is interesting to note that prior to 2002, unqualified teachers who taught for more than forty years received a compassionate gratuity between $5000- $8000 dollars from a leader of a party who claims now that he is concerned about workers. Since 2002, these same teachers have been getting in gratuity benefits of thirty months salary in excess of $40,000. Who, then, has demonstrated concern for workers? Mr Eustace or Mr Gonsalves?. It is easy to assassinate the characters of others behind a microphone, but it is a different ball game to demonstrate leadership on development issues.

Comment No 3: A number of workers will not benefit under the reclassification exercise.

The claim that a number of workers will not benefit under the reclassification is correct. First, a reclassification is a technical exercise, and the outcome is not one that the Union can negotiate. Jobs are classified using the following criteria: experience, knowledge and skills required, working conditions and levels of responsibility.

The truth is, we have a culture in this country where we are too busy to pay attention to the process, but quick to call foul at the final outcome. How many public servants are members of the PSU? How many times in the past have teachers said: “I have no time to attend meetings. If good comes, I will get it. If bad comes, I will get it.” Put it simply, workers did not participate in the exercise.

An examination of the minutes of the steering committee of the reclassification exercise will reveal that the SVGTU representatives Mrs Joy Matthews and Mr Deniston Douglas did not miss a single meeting of the committee since its establishment in 2002. The Union team was then strengthened by Br Otto Sam during his tenure as president. Teachers were provided with all the relevant up-dates every step of the way.

Again, the NDP forget that when they conducted their reclassification exercise in 1987-89, not a single teacher benefited from it. This was conducted when the banana industry had gross income in excess of $100 million dollars annually. The good news is that there are still more benefits to come to workers shortly.

Finally, we cannot separate issues like low productivity and a poor work ethic from salary increases. The taxpayers in the country cannot continue to pay thousands of dollars for work not done. The time has come for a proper monitoring mechanism to be put in place to ensure that all branches of the public service operate effectively and efficiently. If workers are consistently unproductive and unprofessional they must be replaced. Politicians must be able to recommend you for a job, but they must not be able to help you keep a job. That must be the employee’s responsibility.

Denniston Douglas

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