The Public Service Union (PSU) has once again rejected the Government’s proposal for an increment freeze for public officers. The proposal was made to the union as part of cost-saving exercises the Government embarked on amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for austerity measures. The initial proposal made by the Government was rejected by the PSU late last month and was answered with a counter-proposal by the PSU. Earlier this week, the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight wrote to the PSU President, Gerald Henry issuing the union with an ultimatum to either get on board or the Government would take extreme steps to do the increment freeze and adjust salaries if necessary. Those extreme steps could go as high as changing the laws. Love News understands that the union met last night and this morning and their position have not changed. The point of contention for the PSU is that there is more that the Government can do before they have to resort to touching the salaries and allowances of the public officers.
Dean Flowers, First Vice President, PSU: “The Ministry of Finance shared a couple circulars with us which attempts to address the financial situation that the government is currently facing. We were consulted on those via e-meeting after they were published. We were supposed to engage in further discussions but we have not heard back from the FinSec other than via the circular which we have since rejected. We need to look at the cost savings committee reports of 2014 and 2018 which could yield significant savings for the government if only the Financial Secretary and the Ministry of Finance had read the reports and implemented the recommendations. The multi-dipping by retired public officers needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed quickly because we know the wage bill for the government has ballooned beyond what it should be and the Public Service Union and Public Officers are not to blame for that it’s the irresponsible hiring by the Ministry of Finance that has caused that to be that way. You need to look at the monthly allowances and especially those for the house committees because some of these committees don’t meet yet they receive these allowances. I can tell you for a fact the even when they meet they meet for five or ten minutes and they’re out of there so we’re not getting value for our money so we’re saying these allowances are areas that you can cut before you start talking about touching public servants’ increments which they earned for the most part via their performance and which is deserving to them so we’re prepared to make whatever sacrifices needs to be made whether its a deferment of our increment, whether it’s a furloughing of increments but we’re saying let’s look at those immediate areas which there is abuse and which needs to be addressed before you come to us. Entertainment allowances, HoDs, CEOs, ministers – who are we entertaining during COVID-19? There could have been an immediate suspension of entertainment allowances for the next three or six months they do not want to speak about that but they want to speak about touching the increments of public officers.”
According to the letter from FinSec Waight they will get this increment freeze done by hook or by crook. The letter from the FinSec noted, quote, “In light of this, I am to ask again for your support regarding the proposals pertaining to the increments and allowances of teachers and public officers. I remind you of the extremity of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and the collapse of public finances. If the PSU still rejects the proposals, please be informed that the Minister intends to proceed as follows: he will seek, after hearing from you, to advise His Excellency the Governor General to amend the Public Service Regulations so as to give the Minister the power to alter salaries, emoluments and increments in order to deal with the current unprecedented situation.” End of quote. The union was given until tomorrow to respond but they may not need that much time as the union’s Vice President told Love News that they viewed the Government’s ultimatum as a threat to the union and it will not be taken lightly.
Dean Flowers, First Vice President, Public Service Union: “The FinSec initially spoke about freezing of increments and so we were amenable to that and then we made the suggestion of okay let’s revisit the situation when the economy rebounds or within three to five years and low and behold circular number three came out which said that we need to forgo it and of course circular number five I believe it is which is saying that if we don’t agree then the Prime Minister who has all rights to go to the house will seek to amend the regulations to do as he sees fit which they must bear in mind interferes with the terms and conditions of the employment of public officers and so I am certain that the Public Service Union will not take that lightly so I want to state for the record that the membership of the Public Service Union view the Financial Secretary’s response to our letter very disrespectful and unacceptable. It amounts to a threat and a threat that we’re not taking lightly.”