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PWU and TAWU meeting on 4% issue

Rachel Roberts – the President of the Public Workers Union

The leaders of the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) will be meeting with their Executive members this week to discuss the 4% salary increase for members which government indicated that it is in no position to pay by the end of January as part of their agreement.

This was disclosed in an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY by PWU President Rachael Roberts.

She said that she held a telephone conversation last week with her counterpart in TAWU, Senator Andre Lewis and agreed that they will both meet with their respective Executive bodies either today (Monday) or tomorrow to formulate a position on the 4% issue.

According to Roberts, the unions will definitely have a response following the executive meetings that will give a clear direction on the response that government will be getting as the administration has not provided any official response to them on the expected payment.

“We will do what we have to do – whatever necessary actions that we have to do we will do. We don’t like to go out and say oh we doing this and we doing that. We have to make sure that we have the pulse of our membership in place and our membership ready for what we want them to do,” she said.

Roberts said that the salaries of public officers are normally sent into the bank accounts of workers one day before month-end so there is still some time left to see if government will honour its commitment to make the payment.

She pointed out that union leaders are cognizant of the fact that in this Covid-19 pandemic period that the downing of tools will not work as an effective strike strategy.

“…We have to look for some other creative way of how we do things which we will come up with,” she remarked.

The ruling New National Party (NNP) government has used the Government Information Service (GIS) to put out a statement nearly two weeks ago calling on the unions to accept a deferral on the payment due to cash flow problems at the Treasury.

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The release said that government is seeking consideration by the unions to forego the payment of the 4% salary increase due for 2021, which amounts to $13.2 million and because it was unable to secure a consensus in the talks, requested a deferral of payment.

“Government acknowledges that the increases were agreed upon in good faith but is asking that consideration be given to deferring any significant increase in recurrent expenditure, at a time when the economic climate remains very uncertain.

“It must be noted that despite the ongoing challenges, Government has protected its workforce from the loss of jobs and wage cuts, while at the same time, providing bailouts for others. Wages and salaries for all public officers have been paid in full and on time every single month without fail, spending on social care programmes has been maintained; all whilst meeting its debt obligations and the necessary COVID-19 related expenditure.

“…Government, in its discretion, deems it a reasonable ask to defer salary increases for 2021 given the uncertainty of the current situation. It is difficult to justify using scarce financial resources to fund a permanent increase in recurrent expenditure for workers whose jobs are secure and whose wages/salaries and allowances are paid on time, in full, every month; particularly where the imperative exists for economic recovery to the benefit of all citizens.

“Government also accepts that it should pay the increase; however, it reiterates that it is not able to afford payment in 2021 and cannot project when it can pay same, based on the ongoing economic uncertainty.

“Government has a responsibility to make the payment and it also has a responsibility to manage its financial resources, in the best interest of the nation. Government therefore kindly requests the understanding and acceptance of bargaining agents to defer the payment of the 4% salary/wage increase for the year 2021”.

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