“Any attempt by the government to impose changes to the public pension system on public officers, I have no doubt, if we are not happy, would result in widespread industrial action. That is my firm belief. And there will be no holding back.”
President of the Public Service Union (PSU) Elroy Boucher made the comment in response to a question during a press conference at the union’s headquarters at Mc Kie’s Hill on Tuesday. He was responding to a question on whether this country could see a return to the indutrial action climate of 2008 when, during Phase 2 of the Public Service Reclassification exercise, the two largest unions – PSU and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) – were in a deadlock with government over proposed salary increases.
The question was posed to the union leader following last Friday’s outcome where, after a meeting between government officials and two other unions – the National Workers Movement (NWM) and the Commercial Technical and Allied Workers Union (CTAWU) – an agreement was signed for salary increases of 1 percent for half of 2018, retroactive to July 2018; 1.5 percent for 2019 and 2 percent in 2020. The PSU and the SVGTU were invited to the meeting but they did not participate after they refused to comply with an order to leave their cell phones the Prime Minister’s security before entering the meeting.
The SVGTU and the PSU, along with the Police Welfare Association, were expecting to discuss pension reform and their proposed salary increases of 5.5 percent for 2017 and 4.5 percent for 2018.
The PSU and SVGTU announced last week at a joint press conference that they were planning to picket parliament on January 29th when Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves is expected to present the 2019 Budget. The unions had stated last week that only executive members would be involved in the picket and depending on what happens they would decide whether to invite others to picket to extend the picket beyond budget presentation day.
Boucher told reporters on Tuesday that since last week Friday’s turn of events, his union and the SVGTU met up to the day before the press conference. He, however, did not announce any clear or definite decision that might have come out of the talks.
Boucher told reporters that the issue of pension reform has triggered a number of activities in the Caribbean and that it “can be a powder keg” if the government is not careful.