Civil Servants Want Salary Increase in New Budget
It's not that they have no ears to hear, but that they're hearing nothing.
"So far we have not heard anything about the budget."
It's not that they have no eyes to see, but that they're seeing nothing.
"There is no indication as to when the budget address will be delivered."
It's not to say they are incapable of learning, it's that thus far they are learning nothing.
"There is no indication as to what will be included in the budget."
It's not that those who labour from day to day to keep the country afloat have nothing to say, according to Thomas Letang, the head of the country's largest organized labour group, the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), it's that, once again, they haven't been given a say. Therefore, Letang told The Sun, it's virtually impossible to even speculate what might be in the next budget when it is finally presented by the prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.
"Like previous years it is really difficult for us to anticipate what might be there. If there was dialogue, if there was discussion you may have an idea, but it's mysterious to us that there is no discussion, no consultation, so one on the outside cannot have an idea what will be in the budget," Letang explained.
There has been no announcement on when the 2014/2015 budget will be presented or how much the government intends to spend during this period. However, members of the DPSU have made it clear they want to see provisions in there for a pay rise for public servants. So far, the government is being niggardly, offering the workers a wage freeze over the next three years. But the servants of the country have said they've given enough of themselves, surrendered enough, sacrificed enough and it's time they begin reaping the fruits of this sacrifice.
"We have been making sacrifices, we continue to make sacrifices and we have not been rewarded for the sacrifices we have been making over the past two of three decades," the DPSU boss told The Sun. "We want to be rewarded, not only in words, but with something for the sacrifices we have made over the years. One of the things we want to see in the budget is remuneration for public servants."
In rejecting the offer for a wage freeze for 2012 to 2015, focus groups put together by the union and the general body have countered with a demand for a 10 per cent rise – a three per cent increase in each of the first two years and a four per cent rise in the third year. That's not asking a lot, Letang said.
"When we negotiate with government we take into consideration the state of the economy. And for decades that's what we have been doing. We have been told our economy is doing OK, unemployment has gone down and that government is managing its finances well and so forth. We are waiting."
It has been suggested that the workers' demands for a pay rise will undermine the primacy of the national interest and reverse the strides. The administration often refers to neighbours like Barbados and St. Lucia where public servants are either being sent home or being asked to accept a pay cut.
But Letang suggests that this comparison is as insincere as it is unfair. He explains that workers here have already been there and done that, reminding critics that public servants endured pay cuts to help stabilize the economy after the country entered a 'Faustian pact' with the IMF.
"We had a five per cent salary cut and we had to forego increments for two years. And these countries weren't making these sacrifices. So you cannot compare us with these countries," he retorted.
And, he said, during that period of austerity, the administration had ample time to introduce programmes to grow the economy. If they country's rulers failed to take advantage of this opportunity, he said, don't blame public servants.
In addition to the 10 per cent pay rise, the union has demanded a number of "non-salary" benefits which include duty free concessions on building materials, duty free on vehicles on par with what farmers, lands for low cost accommodation and a shuttle for nurses who work late at night.
Whether or not provisions will be made for any of these in what is expected to be an election budget is anyone's guess, the union head said.
"What will be in the budget, I don't know. We should have had consultation and we would be able to come up with a plan. I believe the only thing we might be able to see is the whole question of the geothermal. Government is saying a lot about that so I expect to see that in the budget. But the other sectors, in tourism, in manufacturing, the other sectors, I don't think enough is being done."
Right now what the union sees of the picture being painted – or not being painted – of the budget is nothing but an allegory.