The Executive of the Public Workers Union (PWU) met with the members of the Keith Mitchell government last week Monday to commence negotiations on the issue of fringe benefits to be awarded to public officers.
Speaking on the developments in an interview with THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday, First Vice President of PWU, Rachael Roberts said, there are “proposals on the table from government,” but said the union prefers to wait and see what is happening before speaking to the proposals “until we discuss with government around the table.”
According to Roberts, the two sides have not yet even completed negotiations on fringe benefits and not even close to coming to an agreement on most of the items but was only “half way there and looking forward to continuation (of the talks) very early in the New Year.”
She said the fringe benefits package proposed by the Union include “support for members in the work place and getting better benefits that could actually support them economically.”
“One of the things that we requested of government is to enable us to get (support for) housing (for our membership), so that when government has housing programmes going on, our members can apply and get housing assistance”, she told this newspaper.
Roberts identified another proposal as an approach to government to “look at assisting members with getting a reduction on housing material (because) one of the things that is critical to our membership is a reduction in terms of concession.”
She expressed hope that the two sides will complete the fringe benefits negotiations by the first or second week of January 2017.
“We are hopeful and we know that because we have made some sacrifices over the years that government will be (forced) to look at these things,” she said, noting the things requested will help to “motivate the members in terms of productivity in the workplace.”
Roberts noted that companies around the world conclude that when they have staff that are happy and satisfied they actually produce more.
“So we know that if we have a happy and satisfied workforce in the public service that we would see some improvements in productivity,” she said.
The PWU executive member told THE NEW TODAY that the union along with its negotiation partner in the area of salaries, the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), were expected to meet at the negotiating table on Wednesday to discuss the other issue of salary increases.
Without disclosing the figures being proposed by government, Roberts said the PWU “had actually asked for a 5% increase for the period 2015 -2018, which she affirmed “is not what government is proposing.”
She pointed out that “for the years of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), we the PWU were a bit lenient and asked for 4% for each year…because we recognise in this economic time we have to put forward a realistic figure that the government could afford.”
Roberts acknowledged that when negotiating the Union is aware that it is a give and take and that the Union would have to compromise, however she said, the concern is that they “don’t know at what level the compromise would be”.
“From what we are seeing now the level of compromise is huge so we would have to go to the table and sit and negotiate…Let us see what happens within the next week,” she declared.
In an interview with THE NEW TODAY following the delivery of the National Budget last week Friday, Labour Senator Raymond Roberts noted that the 2008-2013 Congress government of Tillman Thomas cannot be held responsible for the high debt situation in the country but that “it goes back to 1995, when we were on a spending spree.”
Current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell who was in charge of the nation’s affairs for 17 of the past 21 years has been accused of raking up the national debt between 1995 and 2008 on heavy borrowing at high commercial interest rates on a number of non-productive projects.
Sen. Roberts was confident that an agreement will be reached between government and PWU since “the Prime Minister clearly wants to call an election and wouldn’t want to have 10,000 – 12,000 public officers not happy”.
Recalling that PM Mitchell in offering a few goodies to civil servants in the 2017 budget presentation on December 9 stressed that “Santa Claus comes early”, the labour representative said that without a doubt “I expect the propaganda machine of the government to be in full blast and if the deal is reasonable I would think public officers would accept it”
After the budget presentation, the Prime Minster who announced the payment of two installments of salary increments for civil servants – one for the 2014 and another for the period January to June 2016, said the money was due to be made available on December 16.
Dr. Mitchell, who was not in a position to disclose the exact figures, said he “told the trade unions, we would like to settle with much higher interest but if we do that we (would) injure the entire programme (SAP) and we could lose almost EC$70, 80 million dollars next year and that doesn’t make any sense. No Grenadian would want to see that happen.”
He stressed that the government “would have loved to pay them the salaries as negotiated before Christmas but the administrative mechanism would be too much…so we agreed with them that the one that would be paid now would be increments”.
Dr. Mitchell said, “the teachers (Grenada Union of Teachers) have indicated their willingness to sign on to the agreement covering salary increases.
“So I expect (that to happen) very soon…the auxiliary of police officers have also indicated their willingness to move forward. So, if the Public Workers and other Unions come on board, we can expect disbursements to be made soon”, he added.