Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Stephenson King, has expressed grave disappointment in the tone and contents of Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony’s Address to the Nation, on the current salaries and wages negotiations between his Government and the Trade Union Federation. Mr. King laments the fact that the Prime Minister’s address was nothing short of being arrogant, misleading, bluntly insensitive and pregnant with blame! In the process the Prime Minister failed miserably to crystallize the pertinent issues and communicate effectively with clarity to the people.
A greater part of the Prime Minister’s address was wasted on casting blame on the former UWP administration, rather than utilizing that unique opportunity to indicate what measures he; Dr. Anthony, has taken ever-since assuming office, in an effort to manage Saint Lucia’s fiscal situation. Fifteen months into Office, Dr. Anthony; like his surrogates, continues to blame the UWP for all the ills and short-comings of his administration, while at the same time failing to demonstrate by example what measures he has taken or intends to take to stabilize and grow the economy and fashion sound fiscal discipline.
To accuse the UWP of awarding Senior Management in the Public Service a 36.5% increase and that some of them now earn more than the Prime Minister is an act of manipulation of the facts – there’s no requirement which states that the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia should earn more money than any Senior Manager in the Public Service. The fact is: Senior Management had not received a salary increase in over 20 years, causing serious anomalies in the pay grades 17, 18, and 19; hence the necessity for such an increase, as recommended by the Salaries Review Commission. As a matter of fact, the computation of the 36% awarded to Senior Managers of the Public Service over the period works out to be only 3% (at most) per year!
Further, the Prime Minister’s claim that the increases were never tabled in Parliament before taking effect, in complete contravention of the act is misleading. What is required however is that the “final” report of the Commission be presented to Parliament, but not for the reasons stated by Dr. Anthony in his Address on Wednesday evening.
Dr. Anthony; having failed to defend and clearly justify the appointment of the 15 consultants appointed by his administration; one for every month he has been in office, , claims that “the number of persons who have been employed by his government since assuming office pales in comparison with the astronomical level of hiring under the UWP”. What the Prime Minister failed to explain is:
- Were those appointments illegal?
- Were the appointments necessary and relevant, and were the appointees qualified for the jobs?
- What has he done since assuming office to reverse those appointments, if indeed they were illegal, irrelevant or unqualified?
The Prime Minister’s blatant refusal of “…a 6% increase in wages and all of the conditions stipulated by the federation” is contaminated with arrogance and void of compassion and conciliation. While we the Opposition are in no position to advise the Prime Minister on the present wage negotiations; except that there must be prudence in the present economic environment, it must be accepted that public officers have a constitutional right to negotiate for proper wages and conditions of work and therefore they must be treated with dignity and respect.
The Prime Minister must stop playing the “blame game”, which he seems to have perfected, shed the arrogance and get on with the business of the people. Dr. Anthony must demonstrate that he has the ability, capacity and energy to deliver on his promised “Better Days”!