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Parliamentarians need a trade union

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18.JAN.11

Editor: Mr. Prime Minister, I am writing this letter in the media out of concern for our democracy.{{more}}

I remember vividly in the 1990’s when the NDP Administration introduced the so called “Greedy Bill” and the mileage that your party got from mobilizing the masses against it. I also remember the background to the “Greedy Bill”. A study had been done that showed that both parliamentarians and public servants needed a raise of pay, and good justification was given as to why an increase

was necessary. However, the mistake made by the NDP administration was to ignore the part about the public servants and to push only for an increase for themselves, hence the nomenclature of “greedy”.

Let us deal with reality Mr. Prime Minister. Since your election in 2001, public servants have gone through a reclassification exercise, which resulted in salary adjustments upwards for many in the public service. Why were not parliamentarians a part of the reclassification, Mr. Prime Minister? Additionally, you have given public servants a number of salary increases since you got elected to office. You have dealt effectively with the part of the study that called for increases in the compensation for public servants. I am appointing myself as the trade union representative for the parliamentarians and I am calling on you to do right by the parliamentarians and give yourselves a raise of pay.

This is the right time to put aside some resources as you debate the budget.

Representatives Leacock, Cummings and others are not going to complain when they realize that having worked so hard and spent so much money to get elected, their salary is less than that of an executive officer in the civil service. Ministers of government and the Leader of the Opposition are not going to complain about a raise of pay when they have to deal with the reality that Permanent Secretaries and many contract officers make a lot more than they.

Forget the nonsensical pledge by the Leader of the Opposition that they would have reduced salaries if they had won. Instead, Mr. Eustace needs to learn how to tell the truth, and the real truth is that parliamentarians are underpaid and their economic plight is further compounded by the fact that constituents make unreasonable claims against their meagre personal resources. Mr. Prime Minister, our democracy is threatened when the pool of qualified persons who are willing to make this kind of financial sacrifice is small. Make a bold move. Explain the reality of the situation to the country. An increase in salary for twenty one (21) persons after over 15 years of salary freeze is not going to bankrupt the country.

It is time to get past the “Greedy Bill” and be pragmatic in your approach to dealing with your fellow parliamentarians. You have run the most pragmatic government that this country has ever seen. Now is the time, as you deliberate on the budget, to deal with this most important issue. Charity begins at home.

John Edwards

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