While it is a fact that many persons are unemployed and unable to meet their daily expenses, and while the government is consulting with the unions, there is a point of contention for the Public Service Union. According to the union’s First Vice President, Dean Flowers, the issue they have is the current spending by the government. Flowers says the union has learnt that the government has hired dozens of persons since November 2020 despite saying that the country is broke. He noted that since November several ministries have hired Ministers’ Aides, Public Relations Officers and Program Officers.
Dean Flowers, First Vice President, Public Service Union: “We got into a short discussion surrounding circulars that were put out by the previous administration which are set to expire next month and that involves a freeze on hiring and reemployments. Of course we have information that suggests that the new administration is not respecting those circulars and yes we are seeing new hires as you have suggested. Have all of them been necessary? No and this is what makes the conversation a bit difficult. The conversation surrounding the new hires as I stated earlier did happen and we did point out to the government’s representatives yesterday that we’re concerned. We’re concerned that in one hand you’re saying to us the wage bill is too big and it’s unsustainable but on the other hand you’re bringing in and creating new positions and you’re right about the issue of Communications officer and Public relations officer and how does the Public Service Union explain and justify that to its membership? I believe there is absolutely no way we can explain or justify that. We have a Press Office and you’re right from last year we see each and every ministry acting in isolation pretty much from the Press Office through what we now know as their own public relations and communications officer. And it’s unfortunate because then we’re not getting the kind of value for money from the professionals that we have within the press office and so where these new hires is concerned the government’s representatives have said to us that it has been discussed, cabinet has asked ministers to be considerate of the current economic situation and we were given some reassurance by the Deputy Prime Minister and his team that these kind of hirings and creation of new posts is supposed to cease. We were given some reassurance that the matter has been discussed at the Cabinet level and that we should not be seeing any more creation of new posts and hiring of new individuals until we can chart a clear path and a sustainable path to reducing the deficit and of course reducing the wage bill; so I’m really hoping that they’ll keep to their word on that.”
Another concern pointed out by the Flowers is the tender notices being issued from the Ministry of Home Affairs for the provision of 28 new vehicles. In a notice published in last week’s local papers the ministry notes that they have identified public funds for this acquisition. Flowers questions whether priorities are where they are supposed to be.
Dean Flowers, First Vice President, Public Service Union: “We have to ask ourselves whether or not within this budget cycle that is an issue of priority. Was it budgeted for and if it was not budgeted for, is it more important for us to be procuring vehicles rather than assisting in humanitarian needs to the unemployed and the poorer citizens that might need the assistance from the government ? That did not come up in the conversation yesterday but I’m glad that you brought it to my attention because you know these are things that we have to take into consideration when we start thinking about the kind of sacrifices that we’re prepared to make.“