Wage freeze for public officers

Public Officers throughout Grenada will get no wage increases for the next three years as the New National Party administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell embarks on a three-year homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme to deal with an ailing economy.

“Government will not be in a position to grant any salary increases to public officers during the homegrown programme”, the Prime Minister announced last week Tuesday as he presented the 2014 Budget in Parliament.

The three public sector unions on the island – Public Workers Union (PWU), Grenada Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) have not reacted to the announcement by government of a virtual wage freeze in the country.

The Prime Minister conceded that attempts by government to get trade unions to co-operate and come to an amicable understanding has failed on the issue of salary negotiations.

Dr Mitchell informed the house that in September this year, the Government Negotiating Team wrote to all unions, explaining the situation, offering small increases for the period 2014-16 and inviting them to conclude negotiations for the same period by the end of November.

He said he again appealed to trade unions in a national address at the end of October, to work with Government to settle this issue since it was important to help finalise the Structural Adjustment Programme.

“I followed up with personal letters to each Union. It was explained that since wages are the single largest Government expenditure, Government could not proceed with the homegrown programme with this issue unresolved. A settlement in the middle of the programme could then easily derail the entire programme.

“…Mr. Speaker, separate and apart from the homegrown programme, we believe that sustainable wage bill management calls for prospective rather retroactive wage settlements. Unfortunately, the unions have not accepted Government’s offer and did not respond by the end of November as requested. At this stage, Grenada has no choice but to proceed with the programme.

“We must put Grenada first. As I indicated to our Social Partners at our meeting at the end of November, Government regrets not having a wage settlement with the Unions before the commencement of the programme.

“Furthermore, Government will not be in a position to grant any salary increases to public officers during the homegrown programme.

TAWU executive member, Bert Patterson in a recent radio and television programme stated that the unions could not start the negotiations without first getting to know the contents of the 2014 budget and its impact on workers.

A confident looking Dr Mitchell told Parliament he believes that everyone in the country including public officers understand the country’s fiscal situation at this time.

He reiterated that Government intends to meet its obligations to public officers and will do its best to meet the retroactive payments based on a revised schedule. The payment in 2014 will be $24 million.

PM Mitchell has complained since taking office in February that 70 cents of every dollar collected by Government is spent on wages and pensions.

According to Dr. Mitchell the situation cannot continue but he has not outlined any proposals to tackle the problem except to implement an attrition policy.

Under the programme, it is proposed that for every 100 persons who retire from or exit the Public Service, no more than 30 such persons will be replaced.

“This is a Public Service wide policy but will be implemented based on the business needs of Government, not where the vacancies exist”, Dr Mitchell said.

He added that his administration also plans to abolish at least 100 vacant posts in 2014.

The Grenadian leader called on nationals to be guided by this policy and hold his Government accountable.

“Mr. Speaker, Government has established a target of reducing non-personnel expenditure by 20 per cent over 2012 spending.

“This year, we made a start by reducing rent ($1.5 million saving over 12 months); Mobile telecommunications (initial savings of 47%); Fuel (8% reduction across Government but a 20% reduction in the Ministry of Finance); Water (savings of $200,000); Overtime (30% reduction); and Travel (40% reduction),” Dr Mitchell said,

“Yes, Mr. Speaker, the joy rides are over”.


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