It is back to the negotiating table for the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) and two public sector unions – Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) to finalise the outstanding issue of salary and wage increases for their members for the next three years.
GNT, TAWU and PWU late last year agreed to a 4% increase for their members each year for the next three years with the agreement due to be signed last week Friday.
However, the union leaders refused to sign the document pending the resolution of issues relating to who is entitled to receive the 4% following g a meeting at the Cabinet room within the Ministerial Complex.
TAWU and PWU officials also took issue with some of the wording in the document, which they had only received minutes before the signing was due to take place.
“There is no agreement to sign today,” Cabinet Secretary Beryl Isaac told reporters upon exiting the Cabinet room where the signing should have taken place.
The parties had engaged in discussions for more than two hours without settling their differences.
“We have to go back to the negotiating table – that is all I can say right now,” Isaac said.
TAWU President, Senator Andre Lewis, who was flocked by reporters upon exiting the room, disclosed that “the issue is not just the 4%.
“There is an issue specifically related to who is entitled or who should receive the 4%,” he revealed, noting that as the workers’ bargaining agent “we have a duty and an obligation to ensure that this is sorted out”.
“…We need some additional time as agreed to by the GNT to resolve this matter…and we have left the meeting on a very amicable note so, I would just want to indicate that this is an outstanding matter and we are both committed to meet urgently to resolve,” he added, without revealing much details as to the category of workers who are affected.
“We would address that issue and that bridge is one that we need to cross and at that time the appropriate statement would be made to the media and to the general public,” he told reporters as they probed him for further information.
Minutes before announcing that there is still an outstanding issue to be resolved, Sen. Lewis, along with other union representatives had exited the Cabinet room for about 10 minutes to discuss their concerns among themselves.
“We are not saying that we are not signing, we came to sign but we know that there were discussions that had to be held precedent (to) this matter,” he said.
PWU President Rachel Roberts, who also commented on the development stated that “everything is not always in black and white”.
“Sometimes the waters are muddied and we have to clarify, Roberts stated adding, “we had a challenge on the table today but we hope that when we meet with the government…at the subsequent meeting that they have committed themselves to and we have committed ourselves to, that we will be able to resolve this issue and that we would be all happy…so, when we meet we will ensure that we do the best job possible in the interest of all.”
The unions are now waiting on a date from GNT for the next meeting to take place to bring closure to the agreement.