Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has blasted public sector unions on the island and accused some of them of having a political agenda in the one-off payment dispute with his ruling New National Patty (NNP) administration.
Speaking Sunday night at the official endorsement of the NNP Candidate for the St. George North East Constituency, Tobias Clement, the Prime Minister said that government will not give in to the demands of the unions.
The Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) are demanding a one-off payment of $1500.00 for their membership as part of the sacrifice in the IMF-supported 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme.
Last month, public sector employees took 2-days strike action to send a message to the Mitchell-led government on the need to settle the issue.
The Prime Minister told party supporters that some members of the Trade Union Council (TUC) are pushing a political agenda in the fight for the one-off payment for public officers.
“I am convinced that some people have a political agenda because if you want more money and you’re saying don’t go to work, (where) the hell the money will come from, where is it coming from – Keith Mitchell pocket?”, he said.
“The money in the country must be shared by all and sundry. Right now, we give the poor vulnerable people a $200.00. Sisters and brothers that can’t take care of a human being”, he added.
PM Mitchell called on the unions and others like the Christian community to engage with government to “see how we can give more (to) those poor people”.
“In other words, forget all this one-off and give the poor people that money – instead of saying ‘gimme’ more, and ‘gimme’ more and ‘gimme’ more, give the poor people something more.
“Am I to take that money and give to the same set of workers and not help the poor people who need their house to be covered…sister and brothers I ain’t ending my political career on that note…I say no way.
Government has put two options before the union – an offer of $750 for public officers in the service for three years and over and $650 for public officers in the service for less than three years or $700 for everyone.
A defiant Prime Minister Mitchell urged the Unions to have a conscience as the public sector workers are not the only ones who made sacrifices during the Structural Adjustment Programme to tackle the island’s fiscal situation including huge debt payments.
“Sisters and brothers, we had to increase duties and certain items, so the ordinary man who is not even working, he had to pay for the goods the same way like those of us who are working. So, the poor road worker, he get a couple fortnights per year, am I to say to them no work for you, no hope for you, am I to say to them let me give more and more and more to one set of workers in the country.
“Sisters and brothers, we are a Christian people, we must have a conscience. That’s why while I praise the union leadership I must call out certain actions that are not responsible.
PM Mitchell accused some of the union leadership of remaining silent on workers issues involving the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) government but using a different yardstick on the NNP regime.
He accused the union of not beating the drums and engaging in demonstrations against Congress but now turning a blind eye to the millions spent by his administration on public officers over the last four and a half years.
Dr. Mitchell said: “Sisters and brothers 2008-2012, not one single cent was paid in additional wages to the workers of this country, not one cent, sisters and brothers, not a drum was heard – there was no demonstration, there was no attempt to disrupt the services to the people of this country.
“…We have paid over $100 million, I think it’s close to $115 million in additional resources to the public workers of this country in the last four years. Remember NDC did not pay one dark cent but we have paid over $100 million in back pay and wages increases.
“We have regularised hundreds of teachers to the tune of millions of dollars, workers who were working for years under previous governments and couldn’t go to the bank and get a loan because they do not have a permanent employment, we have regularised hundreds of those workers costing us millions of dollars – more support to the public workers of this country.
“…In addition, we have spent millions more on fringe benefits, not a cent was given in fringe benefits under the NDC, not a cent was given for regularising public officers under the National Democratic Congress but not a drum was heard…no demonstration, nothing.”
Political analysts are suggesting that the impasse with the unions is one of the contributing factors for the delay by Prime Minister Mitchell in setting the date for the upcoming general election.