Prime Minister Rowley tells public workers “don’t get too carried away” with demanding a larger wage increase percentage
PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO — There could be trouble in paradise as Trinbagonian public sector workers are threatening to follow Jamaica’s lead and hold demonstrations over wage talks.
Over the course of the past week, workers in Jamaica’s public sector have staged disruptions like walking off the job, even striking for as many as four days, over the stalled development of a compensation overhaul promised by its government.
Meanwhile, over in Trinidad, the government has become one of several Caribbean nations to either hint at or outright introduce salary increases for the public sector over the past year.
However, the problem in this case is the amount of the wage increase, as the government has proposed a two percent increase over a seven- to eight-year period up to 2021.
Trinidad & Tobago’s public workers, including its invaluable healthcare workers, have threatened to follow the lead of Jamaica’s public sector and stage mass disruptions if the proposed increase is not significantly raised to anywhere from five to as much as 10 or 15 percent.
Govt. refuses larger increase
However, despite the public sectors threatening to take action, the government is maintaining that anything more than a two percent increase is simply not feasible.
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert gave a breakdown of the nation’s finances, stating on social media that even the back pay from the proposed two percent increase would “cost the government and taxpayers $350 million” on top of the recurring $300 million.
“When we extend to the entire state sector,” Imbert explained, “it will cost $700 million in back pay and $600 million additional recurring annual cost.”
Public sector workers told: “Don’t get too carried away”
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley further defended the government’s proposal of a two percent increase for public sector workers, including any back pay owed.
In addition to echoing the statistics quoted by Minister Imbert, he admonished public workers to not get “too carried away” on their demands for a bigger increase.
“We would love to give the public servants as much as they could expect, but it has to be tempered by what the reality is,” said Rowley.
He added, “I think you would want us to continue keeping people in jobs. You would want us to continue looking for an opportunity to provide them with an improved payment, but let us not get too carried away on this.”