Thomas Letang speaks to the press
Thomas Letang speaks to the press

In the heat of the election campaign, Dominica Labour Party (DLP) political leader Roosevelt Skerrit announced on a political rally last week that he was offering public servants a five percent increase in salary. That's a massive jump from zero.

"I am therefore delighted to be in a position tonight to announce to you and to the country that effective Thursday, the fourth day of December 2014, the government's offer to public service unions and therefore by extension to all public officers in Dominica, shall be three per cent in the first year, one per cent in the second year and one per cent in the third year", Skerrit said at a party rally on Wednesday 3rd December 2014.

Skerrit said that the pledge from un-named friendly governments had come at a time when his administration was unable to increase its offer and the country could ill afford an increase in expenditure.

He said talks had been held with those governments over the past four months on the issue of budget support.

"These countries not yet out of the woods, economically and I am not minded to increase the level of direct taxation on the workers of Dominica. Therefore I laid my cards out to two friendly governments in particular and I am pleased …to announce that within the last 48 hours I have ad direct pledges from two friendly governments to assist with the issue of budgetary support for next year," Skerrit told supporters.

The Government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit had initially offered a wage freeze or zero percent salary increase for the period 2012 to 2015, but this has been rejected by the DPSU.

The union is proposing a salary increase of three percent, four percent and three percent respectively for the triennium 2012/2015.

In early October the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU) accused the government of "not interested" in negotiating a salary increase for public servants.

Reacting to Skerrit's latest offer, Thomas Letang, the DPSU's general secretary in a statement issued on Friday 5th December cautioned his members that they have to listen carefully to what they hear on the political platform.

"Dominicans are in the heat of an election campaign and every opportunity will be taken by politicians to use any issue including salary negotiations to their advantage," Letang said in the statement. "The Union advises its members to exercise their civil responsibility to vote on polling day but that in doing so they should not allow the issue of proposed salary increase regardless of which side it is coming from to be the main influence in making their decision".

Letang added: "The Public Service Act of 1991 clearly outlines the procedures for dealing with salary negotiations in the public service. It also places the responsibility for treating with public service representative bodies with the Training and Establishment Department.

"Established practice is that the Government Negotiating Team consists of the Chief Personnel officer, the Secretary to the Cabinet and the Financial Secretary with the Chief Personnel Officer leading the Government Negotiating Team. The Union side comprises the Union's President, the Treasurer and the General Secretary who leads negotiations on behalf of the Union.

"The Dominica Public Service Union which functions on the principles of democracy, good governance and transparency engages its full Executive in discussion on any proposal emanating from negotiations and always seek the endorsement of its general membership before accepting and rejecting any offer made to it by the Government Negotiating Team on behalf of the Government."

Advising civil servants to vote wisely, Letang said: "Instead, foremost on their minds should be the issues of good governance, transparency and social partnership as well as the case for social services. In addition they should be interested in economic reform and development as well as in education and training. They should also pay attention to labour issues, in particular to trade union participation in decision making as it relates to public sector reform, labour issues, the Constitution and legal matters".