“First thing, we must have a process of good-faith bargaining, elective bargaining, so that people can have a chance to – the unions can have a chance to – put on the table what is required to be put there by their membership.
And then it’s for them to negotiate back and forth.”
Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday made the comment on Friday afternoon during an interview. His
comments came hours after a planned meeting between Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and representative of
the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU), the Public Service Union (PSU) and the Police
Welfare Association (PWA) was aborted as the union representatives refused to leave their cellphones with security
personnel outside the Prime Minister’s office causing the meeting to be aborted.
At a press conference on Tuesday called by the two unions, president of the SVGTU Wendy Bynoe disclosed that on Monday “once it became public that we were having a joint pres conference, our unions received calls from the Prime Minister’s office” and that the calls were “to invite the unions to a meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday11th January.”
“Our unions then requested a letter of invitation along with an agenda to seek clarification. The letter was sent by
email dated 7th January, 2019. And the agenda included items of pension reform, salary enhancement and other
general budget issues,” Bynoe stated then, adding, that “despite the late invitation, our unions will attend.”
During the interview on Friday afternoon, Dr Friday stated: “What we’ve had with this government, this so-called labour government – over the years is that there has been no negotiation whatsoever with the public sector unions.
Everything has been legislated and mandated and then people are made to believe that if you get 7 percent it’s
better than 10 – you know, that sort of nonsense.
The point is, you have to have the process done in good faith where it’s genuine bargaining. And that has not happened under this administration. I have no reason to believe it’s gonna start happening now. A leopard doesn’tchange its spots. And so, if the unions who are representing their workers continue to represent them ernestly then they will press their demands and I’m sure that they would do so and make the government respond with gusto –
which is; in a good faith manner.”
Bynoe said last Tuesday at the press conference that the unions have a proposal for retroactive 5.5 percent increase
for 2017 and a 4.5 percent increase for 2018.
Prime Minister Gonsalves on Monday announced a meeting with the unions scheduled for yesterday and had
spoken about discussions for salary adjustments.
“You got to bear in mind that for every 1 percentage point in increase in salary it’s about $3 million. So, if somebody
comes to tell you that they want a 5 percent increase in a year, you have to find $15 million,” Dr Gonsalves told
reporters at Cabinet Room on Monday.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that last year, when over 100 graduate teachers were appointed it cost over $2
million and this year will be another cost of over $2 in addition to an additional 120 persons to be appointed as announced at last Independence Day parade.
Asked if he blieves the government can afford such salary increases at this time, Dr Friday replied: “We have to
expect that how people are suffering in this country here now, you know, you have everything else is going up. You
know what it costs to register a vehicle in this country here now? And then the roads are so bad, the tyres don’t last
any time and the shocks. All the expenses are going up. So, the unions I will expect will look at what is reasonable,
that will be acceptable to their membership and they will put it forward. It’s a matter for them to negotiate. You
know, the government they know what their fiscal position is. They have no reservations about wasting money and
throwing it away when they have election time and they’re spending millions of dollars to try to get people to vote
for them. And they have no reservations about putting people out of work. When they have somebody who doesn’t
support them they go and, basically, they do things to make their business close down.”
Dr Friday furher stated: “All of these things affect the health of the economy and the government’s own fiscal
position and the ability to pay salaries. So, I don’t really have a situation where I would say 5 or 4 (percent salary
increase) is better. Well 5 (percent) is, obviously, better for the unions but what the country can afford that is a
matter for the parties. And, the unions certainly have a right to ask for what is in the interest of their membership.
And I hope that they stand up for their membership