The St. Lucia Trade Union Federation (TUF) which groups most of the island’s public sector unions, has agreed to a three-year wage freeze as part of efforts to help resuscitate the economy.
The decision was announced in a statement earlier this week at the conclusion of negotiations between Government and the Federation for the period April 2013 to March 2016.
The TUF has described the wage freeze offer as “a huge contribution” to national development, and expressed hope that other sections of the country will follow the “good example” in making a sacrifice for country in times of need.
“The Federation conveyed to government its understanding of the current economic situation facing the country and was ready to assist by making certain sacrifices towards alleviation of the situation,” the statement signed by TUF President, Julian Monrose noted.
However it made no reference to government’s request for a five per cent wage cut for public sector workers as part of government’s prescription to deal with an EC$76 million fiscal crisis.
While government’s proposal for the wage cut had been initially rejected by all public sector unions, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony urged the public servants to either keep it on the agenda or come up with alternative ways in which the fiscal deficit could be funded.
While the TUF made a list of recommendations, which included the introduction of VAT (Value Added Tax) on electricity, the St. Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA), which is not a member of the TUF, refused to include the wage cut in any discussions with the GNT. In response to the decision of the TUF to accept a wage freeze, CSA President Mary Isaac said she was not surprised, and declined further comment until negotiations between the CSA and government are concluded.
Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, who has not spoken publically for several weeks on the state of the economy, gave the unions several ultimatums for resolution of the wage cut issue, all of which have long passed.
During his budget presentation in April this year, Anthony without prior consultation with public service unions, legislated the 5 per cent wage cut which he said was urgently needed to resolve the island’s fiscal crisis.