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In June 2014 Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit presented a recurring budget of just over EC$316m, which included salaries and wages. The largest slice (EC$62,887,928) went to the ministry of education and human resource development, with nearly EC$48m going to the ministry of health, EC$42m to the ministry of finance and EC$33m to the ministry of public works, energy and ports. The ministry of tourism received approximately EC$15m.

The capital budget, which includes grants for capital projects, was approximately EC$174m, with the bulk (EC$57.5m, EC$32m and EC$22m respectively) going to the ministry of public works, energy and ports, the ministry of lands, housing, settlement and water resources and the ministry of employment, trade, industry and diaspora affairs.

The budget included no increases in salary for civil servants.

Wage freeze rage

That omission in the budget may have been a signal that Government was confident that the various public service unions would have accepted its offer; Government wanted its employees to accept a no- increase-in-salaries proposal.

There are three unions in the battle.

When the Sun first reported the story in early 2014, one was "more than disappointed"; another said straight out that government's offer is unacceptable; the third studying a document that it had just received.

That, in a nutshell, was the state of salary negotiations between the Government of Dominica and civil servants for the period 2012 to 2015. The first "union" represents Dominica's cops; it is called the Police Welfare Association (PWA) and Jefferson Drigo is its president. When the Sun asked Drigo about the status of the negotiations he said the PWA received an offer from Government of zero, zero, zero.

"We will not accept that offer. I will take it to the membership for discussion but I can tell you that that offer is unacceptable," Drigo said.

Thomas Letang is the General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU); he is the union boss who was extremely disappointed with Government's offer. For Letang it seemed a clear case of "feet dragging."

"We expected that by now we would have received Government's proposal. It was agreed when we met and they said it would have been forthcoming," Letang said. "Until now we have not received anything... no idea of what is holding up them up; they have all the information and statistics that is required. We are disappointed and unhappy".

During the election campaign Prime Minister Skerrit offered public servants a five percent increase in salary over the three years from 2012 to 2014. The unions are now discussing that offer.

The union originally proposed a salary increase of three percent to four percent and three percent respectively for the triennium 2012/2015.

Chikungunya caused havoc to the Dominican economy in 2014

On January 16, 2014, the Ministry of Health reported Dominica's first (imported) case of Chikungunya; an individual who travelled from the island of St. Martin in December 2013. And throughout 2014 Dominica and the rest of the region battled that mosquito-borne disease.

Chikungunya had a serious impact on the Dominican economy. Deputy Director of the Dominica Social Security (DSS), Augustus Etienne, disclosed that from January 2014 to April 16, 2014 the DSS paid out 187 claims to persons affected by the dreaded Chikungunya disease.

Law Bill Burden

The Sun reported in 2014 that Dominican students of the Sir High Wooding Law School (HWLS) in Trinidad & Tobago would not graduate because government had not paid "economic costs" for students for the past eight years. And students who had completed their studies this year would not receive certificates and won't be called to the bar.

According to information reaching the Sun, the law school was willing to negotiate with government; HWLS asked that at least half the unpaid amount should be settled but all correspondence to the relevant authority here remained "unanswered."

Dominica owed the institution EC$1.8 million as at July 2014. At the end of July 2014 Dominica was 76 months in arrears.

Public Works Workers protest again

It was supposed to be a normal working day on Tuesday 15 July 2014 for the staff at the Dominica Public Works Garage, but it turned out to be a day of "protest".

Bearing placards, the staff, along with General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU) Thomas Letang, marched from the garage to the Financial Centre in Roseau where they picketed the office of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit calling for the payment of outstanding wages.

According to Letang, the debt stood at over $3 million including salary and benefits along with social security deductions.

But that protest was just another chapter in the ongoing problem between Government and the Public Works Department (PWD) workers that has stretched from 2011. Staff members were concerned about the future of this quasi-government institution.


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