Monday June 23, 2014 public servants across the Caribbean are expected to celebrate Public Service Day. I have taken the liberty to say “celebrate” since the mood of most, including those in Saint Lucia are anything but celebratory.
Public servants here have been presented with a proposal by the government in which they are being asked to take a 5% pay cut. In addition, the government has proposed a three-year wage freeze. All of the unions and associations who have met with their members to discuss government offer have so far rejected it, leading the prime minister to conclude last week that discussions had reached an “impasse.”
In a press release Wednesday, the Trade Union Federation (an umbrella body of associations and unions, including the Saint Lucia Teachers Union) stated that it supports the position of public sector workers. It added that the Government must follow correct industrial relations process in placing demands before workers. “We therefore call on the government to adhere to the correct principles and engage unions in keeping with the article and spirit of their collective agreement,” a statement signed by the TUF’s president Julian Monrose states.
Earlier, the Civil Service Association, which is not a part of the TUF had made it clear that the government had not acted in good faith by inserting the 5% pay cut in the budget ahead of the discussions. With that in mind, the CSA has been the only organization who have refused to meet with government. However speaking with The STAR Friday president Mary Isaac says the government’s proposal to the CSA will be discussed Monday, public service day.
“We plan to begin the day with prayers at the CSA center in Sans Souci and after that we will have that famous meeting that some have been calling for,” Isaac told the STAR.
She however noted that most members had already indicated that if their salaries are touched with any 5% cut they would take the necessary action. Pressed on about what action would be taken, Isaac would only reply: “We will have to wait and see. Monday’s meeting will be held to allow members to arrive at consensus in a democratic way and to decide on the way forward.”
The Union leader reiterated that the CSA is going it alone, having written to the TUF last month of its dissasociation. She however queried the presence of a CSA member on the TUF team and had previously raised suspicions about overtures being made by the government to members.
The CSA president is now calling on government to activate the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) to commence negotiations for the current triennium.
“We are usually late when it comes to these negotiations and already we are into our second year of this triennium. If the government is serious about negotiating anything with us, including the reduction of salaries, the GNT should be the one going forward into next year’s budget,” Isaac says.
According to Isaac, both the East Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have expressed concern about the delay.
“When it comes to this year’s GDP and our fiscal position, the government had already passed it in the estimates in May. So any shortfall now would mean that the government would have to return to parliament with a supplementary budget to take care of that. So this really makes no sense and it shows that the government has not been acting in good faith,” Isaac says.
Asked to paint a picture of a best case scenario at this time, this is what the CSA president had to say:
“We need the information as to the countries fiscal position, and not just the figures presented to us, to arrive at an informed position. So the best-case scenario would be for the government to open its books to us. We would also like the consultancies to be broken down and not lumped under professionals, so we can clarify the figure that that sector is taking up. As a CSA, we want all of the information so we can then sit in a tripartite forum and discuss the real [options.]” Anything less, Isaac says, will not impress her members who have already rejected any notion of a pay cut.