St Lucia’s Trade Union Federation (TUF) has described the new salary proposals to public servants by the government as “unacceptable”, noting that its acceptance would have a “debilitating effect…on individuals, families and the economy”.
TUF president, Julian Monrose, in a Friday, May 29 letter to Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, said public sector unions were reiterating a position adopted on April 2, when they expressed their understanding of the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on the local economy and St. Lucians in general.
“Without being prompted, the unions offered Government a deferment of the implementation of the one per cent salary increase due April 1st, 2020 for a period of six months in the first instance. This is a positive example that Government Ministers have pronounced that they have no intention of following,” Monrose wrote.
He said it appears that the unions’ exhortations to government to reconsider its proposal because of the potential damaging effect, seemingly did not make an impact on “Government’s clear determination to coerce the unions into accepting its proposal.”
“The unions have reiterated several times that the proposal actually represents a 50 per cent reduction in the cash that public servants need to carry out their obligations for the period. In addition, forcing public servants to invest in the employer’s bonds against their will represents a cut in their salary for that period,” Monrose argued.
“Public sector unions find the Government’s request unacceptable because of the debilitating effect it will have on individuals, families and the economy of the country,” the TUF president wrote.
Earlier this month, in an open letter to the TUF, Prime Minister Chastanet appealed to public servants and public sector trade unions to accept the new salary proposals as the island continues to grapple with a downturn in economic activity and revenue as a result of the coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic.
Chastanet said that his administration in light of the prevailing situation was making “a final appeal to all its employees and their trade union representatives to consider and accept the offer made herein and in our previous discussions with the trade union leaders.
In his letter, Chastanet said the government was putting several forward proposals to public servants and their unions, including a cash payment in full of the wages and allowances for all grades below 7, covering approximately 4,300 public sector officers.
Another proposal detailed for the payment of 50 per cent in cash and 50 per cent in a government wage bond for wages and allowances due to all public sector workers from grades 7 to 21, covering approximately 5,483 public sector officers. Chastanet said that this will be for a three month period only.
According to PM Chastanet, the government is also proposing the payment of 25 per cent in cash and 75 per cent in a government wage bond for wages and allowances due to all Parliamentarians. This will be for a three-month period only.
Chastanet said that pensioners are to be paid their full emoluments in cash, covering approximately 2,909 public sector officers.
But in its letter, the TUF said that a Grade 8 public servant with a salary of EC$3,335.51 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) would after having made deductions for taxes, essential services and transportation, takes home an estimated EC$2,722.88.
“If we were to consider Government’s proposal favourably, it would mean that the public servant would only receive $1,482.55 in cash. This amount would only cover housing and food expenses. At the end of the three months period, the public servant would be indebted to the tune of EC$3,353.64,” the TUF argued.