Civil servants to receive 4 percent increase but given the option to refuse (full statement in story)

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Civil servants to receive 4 percent increase but given the option to refuse (full statement in story)
Public Service Minister Dr. Fletcher
Public Service Minister Dr. Fletcher

Despite the Civil Service Association’s vote to settle for a zero percent salary increase, the government of Saint Lucia announced on Monday that it will disburse the amount to all public servants including the 2,500 members of the CSA.

The increase is configured as one percent for year one, 1.5 percent for year two and 1.5 percent for year three.

Not altogether disregarding the CSA settlement vote, allowance has been made for the 228 CSA who voted to not accept the wage increase.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Public Service Minister Dr.James Fletcher said the workers can write to their respective permanent secretaries informing of their wish not to receive the increase in pay.

The minister justified the position of government with three considerations: 1. That the mere 228 votes out of 2,500 CSA members did not suffice as general consensus; 2. Current petitions were in circulation among various government agencies with signatures outstanding that of the CSA votes and the most important being 3. The grade/wage inconsistencies that would be derived in the overall system.

The letter or memo denying a salary increase should be sent to the permanent secretary before May 31, 2013 in order for the necessary salary changes to be made by the Treasury Department.

The government also considered the issue of salary deductions from civil servants who opted to take strike action for the payment of the 9.5 percent wage increase, but decided against it for the sake of moving on.

The minister did however add that such graces on the part of the government would not occur in the future.

Dr. Fletcher said: “Cabinet also thought long and hard on the issue of salary deductions from those civil servants who opted to take strike action for the payment of the 9.5 percent wage increase. Cabinet held firm on the right of the employer not to pay workers for work not done. However, as a show of good faith to close this chapter and move forward with the important task of developing our country and providing greater opportunities for all citizens of Saint Lucia, Cabinet decided not to make any deductions from the salaries of those civil servants who were absent from work on strike action. Cabinet did agree, however, that in the future, it would apply the principle of no work, no pay.”

BELOW IS THE ENTIRE STATEMENT DELIVERED BY MINISTER FLETCHER

GOVERNMENT REACTS TO THE LATEST PROPOSAL BY THE CSA

Senator Hon. Dr. James Fletcher
Minister with responsibility for the Public Service
May 13, 2013

The Government of Saint Lucia, through a Government Negotiating Team, chaired by Mr. Vern Gill, engaged in discussions with nine (9) Public Sector Unions/Staff Associations on collective agreements for the period 1st April 2010 to 31st March 2013. These Unions are:
1. The St. Lucia Civil Service Association
2. The National Workers Union
3. The St. Lucia Teachers Union
4. The St. Lucia Nurses Association
5. The St. Lucia Medical and Dental Association
6. The St. Lucia Fire Service Association
7. The St. Lucia Correctional Service Association
8. The St. Lucia Police Welfare Association
9. The Vieux- Fort General and Dock Workers Union

The GNT also negotiated with the St. Lucia Civil Service Association and the St. Lucia Teachers Union on behalf of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in respect of non-teaching staff and teaching staff respectively.
The negotiations process is organized into three (3) cycles. The First (1st) cycle deals with all non-financial terms and conditions of employment. The second (2nd) cycle addresses allowances, while the third (3rd) cycle focuses on wages/salaries.

Wages and salaries are negotiated collectively with all Public Sector Unions, with the exception of the National Workers Union.

During the first stage of negotiations on wages and salaries, the Public Sector Unions, negotiating under the banner of the Trade Union Federation (TUF), proposed a 16% wage settlement for the triennium. The GNT countered with an offer of 0,0,0 with a lump sum payment of $1000 to all Public Officers. The GNT’s offer was rejected by the TUF.

The GNT subsequently put 3 new proposals on the table:
1. 0,0,1 with a $750 lump sum payment
2. 0,0,2 with a $500 lump sum payment
3. 0,0,3
All three of these settlement scenarios were rejected by the TUF.

The GNT, in an attempt to bring the negotiations to an amicable conclusion, made a final offer of 4% to the TUF. This 4% settlement was configured as 1% in Year One, 1.5% in Year 2, and 1.5% in Year 3. The GNT also agreed to a request from the TUF that the back-pay be disbursed free of Income Tax.

This salary and wage settlement was accepted by all the members of the TUF, with the exception of the CSA. The Civil Service Association indicated to the GNT that it would accept no less than 9.5%, plus a series of new conditions.

In a letter dated 16th April, 2013, the Secretary to the GNT wrote to the General Secretary of the CSA informing him that the Government’s final position was the 4% increase in salary that had already been agreed to by the other members of the TUF, and agreement on 7 conditions, namely:

1. Retirement Age changes to bring the provisions of the Staff Orders in conformity with the provisions of the NIC Act and Regulations for public officers serving in a non-pensionable post and those who joined the service after 1st February, 2003, while for those serving in a pensionable post who had joined the service prior to 1st February 2003, the Government committed to undertaking an Actuarial Study to inform the necessary amendment to the Pensions Act;

2. The establishment of committees in all Public Sector departments and ministries, to include the respective staff/union associations, to prepare and submit job descriptions to allow for the completion of the Reclassification Exercise;

3. The establishment of a joint committee of the National Housing Corporation and the Unions to explore options for future housing developments for public officers. That committee is expected to work under the direction of the Ministry of Housing;

4. The Government would contribute a sum of $50,000 annually to the CSA’s medical plan for a period of three years, following which this condition would be reviewed. This was in response to a request for assistance from the CSA to provide some relief to its members, many of whom it claimed were opting out of the medical insurance plan;

5. An annual contribution of $50,000 to the CSA’s Education Fund, also to be reviewed after 3 years. This was in recognition of the need for, and importance of continuing education in the development of Public Officers;

6. On the issue of an Agency Fee, the Government agreed that this request would be referred to an independent legal counsel to determine its constitutionality; and

7. The request for an increase to the Travelling Allowance for travelling officers would be submitted to Cabinet by the Travelling and Subsistence Committee for consideration.

The CSA responded to this letter by informing the Government that at a meeting of its members, 228 public officers voted to accept a 0,0,0 settlement for the 2010 to 2013 triennium.

The Cabinet of Ministers deliberated on this matter and was guided by the following facts:

Firstly, there is a common classification system for Public Officers, which places all public officers into 21 salary bands. Eighteen of these bands, Grades 1 to 18, constitute the public officers who are represented by the Unions or Staff Association that make up the TUF. This is why the Government negotiates salaries and wages with the TUF as a collective, while it negotiates non-financial terms and conditions of employment and allowances with the Unions/Staff Associations individually. Therefore, a situation where officers represented by one Union are paid less than the officers represented by other Unions who are in the same pay grade is one that creates serious anomalies in the system.

Secondly, there are currently over 2,500 Civil Servants. Only 228 voted for a 0,0,0 wage settlement. The final proposal made by the CSA is less than any offer made by the GNT during these negotiations. Additionally, there are several petitions from several Government agencies requesting the payment of the same settlement that was agreed to with the other members of the TUF. The number of names on those petitions already dwarfs the number of people who voted for the 0,0,0 wage settlement.

Therefore, the Cabinet of Ministers, at its meeting last week, to correct the anomalies created by the decision of the CSA, agreed to the payment of a 4% increase to all civil servants, for the triennium 2010 to 2013, configured as 1% in Year One, 1.5% in Year Two, and 1.5% in Year 3. As a result of the correction of these anomalies, the civil servants will also receive the difference in salaries that would have accrued as a result of the salary increases that will now be applied for the respective years.

The Cabinet recognizes, however, that 228 civil servants voted to not accept a salary increase. Therefore, in order not to disrespect the wishes of these officers, Cabinet has agreed that any civil servant not wishing to have the 4% salary increase and the accrued difference applied to their salary for the 2010-2013 triennium, should write to their respective Permanent Secretary, who is the Accounting Officer for the agency, copied to the Accountant General, indicating that they do not wish to accept the salary increase. This letter or memo should be sent to the Permanent Secretary before the 31st May, 2013 to allow for the necessary salary changes to be made by the Treasury Department. All other civil servants will receive their salary increase in their June salaries.

Cabinet also thought long and hard on the issue of salary deductions from those civil servants who opted to take strike action for the payment of the 9.5% wage increase. Cabinet held firm on the right of the employer not to pay workers for work not done. However, as a show of good faith to close this chapter and move forward with the important task of developing our country and providing greater opportunities for all citizens of Saint Lucia, Cabinet decided not to make any deductions from the salaries of those civil servants who were absent from work on strike action. Cabinet did agree, however, that in the future, it would apply the principle of no work, no pay.

In closing, the Government wishes to thank the large numbers of Civil Servants who put the interests of the country and their fellow citizens before theirs and remained on the job to ensure that the general public who depend so heavily on their services were not affected or unduly inconvenienced during the recent industrial action. It is this sort of conscientious and dedicated service that will ensure that our country will one day be spoken of as the economic miracle of the Caribbean, in the same way that these titles are now being bestowed on other countries of similar size in other regions.

We also wish to thank the general public who were understanding and patient during the negotiations and who held steadfast to the view that Government should not commit itself to settlements that were outside of its ability to honour.

Thank you.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Dr. Fletcher, the legal name is Saint Lucia ...not Street Lucia. But then again, you're just another politician, you wouldn't know.

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  2. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

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