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Left to Right:Drigo, Nicholas, Letang
Left to Right:Drigo, Nicholas, Letang

A wage freeze? Are you serious?

Unions representing civil servants seem to find common ground in their shock at government's offer of zero percent increase in wages and salary for three years, 2015 to 2018.

As salary increase talks continue between government's negotiators and representatives of the Police Welfare Association (PWA), the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT) and the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU) there are indications that the parties are heading for serious confrontation. But no guns have been drawn, so far.

Celia Nicholas, the President of the DAT has made it clear that her union will not accept a wage freeze.

Jefferson Drigo, the chairman of the PWA, says police officers are "disappointed and dissatisfied" at government's offer. And Thomas Letang, the General Secretary of the DPSU says government's offer of zero, zero, zero (or a wage freeze) is unacceptable.

The DPSU met with the government's negotiators on January 12, 2017 when that offer was rejected. Letang said that public officers "cannot afford to make a sacrifice of a three-year wage freeze."

"Government has the responsibility of finding the salary," he said.

The DPSU, like the PWA, is asking the government for salary increases of 5%, 5%, 5% (total of 15%) for the 2015/2018 triennium.

Letang's union has planned a rally on March 16, 2017 to discuss salary negotiations and governance matters.

Former DPSU president John Alexis is expected to be the feature speaker at the rally to be held at DPSU headquarters.

"We need the support of everyone, and the invitation is to everyone out there, "Letang said on Q95 FM this morning.

He said "fear" is keeping members of the DPSU from participating in union activities.

"The DPSU has to eradicate that fear and we want to inform the people that there is no need to fear," said Letang.

Meantime, the PWA executive met with the Chief Personal Officer (CPO) and the rest of government's negotiating team on March 6, 2017 where the PWA flatly rejected government's proposal of a wage freeze.

"We were disappointed and dissatisfied at the government's proposal which is a wage freeze for the triennium…we were not expecting that," he said

According to Drigo, the PWA in making the salary increase proposal has considered many factors including the state of the economy, Government's fiscal performance, the real consumer price index (CPI) and the relative incomes in the state, and in neighboring countries of the OECS.

"We were very surprised at the proposal put forward by the government…we have rejected that," he said.

At a meeting on Friday March 10, 2017 Drigo said the members of the PWA said police officers said they are not going to be moved from their demand of 15 percent increase in salaries.

"We hope that common-sense will prevail and we hope that government's offer will change," Drigo said.

Government and PWA negotiating teams meet again on 23rd March and police officers gather a day latter to ponder at the new positions.

DAT's Celia Nicholas says the union will not be accepting a wage freeze. She has taken issue with a consultancy commissioned by the government in 2015.

"We have been told that the consultant is requesting another six months and this is unacceptable because a lot has happened prior to this. The local counterpart has resigned from the committee. The chief consultant has been going on with his research unabated but, from the DAT stand point, what we are saying is that if the local counterpart has resigned, it was the responsibility of the main consultant and the ministry of Education to inform the DAT of this resignation," Nicholas told DBS radio.

She continued: "So as far as the DAT is concerned, we cannot use this consultancy in any terms as a basis for discussions for our negotiations. We have met with the government negotiating team and given them our ten point proposal and ask them to go through it and submit response to our proposal item by item. It was proposed that maybe by March 23, 2017 we should meet.

"But it is clear that the DAT will not accept a wage freeze. We have worked and are working…so if the teachers are working, honey sweetens labour," she said.