Gov’t to meet with media and unions today

Gov’t to meet with media and unions today

Members of the media will on Friday morning (May 9) be enlightened on the outcome of recent meetings held between government and the various trade unions which represent public sector workers.

A meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. in that regard.

Cabinet and officials from the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Social Security have been meeting with unions with a view to discussing government’s proposals to reduce expenditure in its operations.

Talks of an impending five percent salary cut across the board for public sector workers have been circulating in the past few weeks. Government has neither confirmed nor denied its intention to impose this, as it seeks to cut its fiscal deficit by $75 million.

At today’s meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. reporters and journalists are expected to be briefed on matters discussed in these meetings.

According to Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, the forum is not aimed to “persuade the press to have a particular point of view or to advocate a particular point of view.” He said that meet is simply to provide information.

Dr. Anthony said that media with be given access to the same information being presented to all unions and general public at the recent meetings.

“The reality of this is not to distill from the press any specific position or to get them to prescribe any particular range of policies, rather it is an information session,” he reiterated.

He said government will not be making any announcements as to whether any decisions have been taken with regard to the various proposals discussed at the meetings.

Meanwhile, government is also scheduled to meet with union leaders later in the day to take discussions “one step further” and “get a sense of what is the thinking of the unions”. According to the prime minister,  each union was  invited to provide proposals that they would want to pursue going forward. Such discussions are expected to continue for a month, he said.

“It’s an opportunity to hear from them exactly where their minds are exactly in terms of proposals emanating from them.  It’s gonna be a long process. There will be several discussions I am afraid, but of course I have also made it very clear to the unions that you can’t continue discussions in perpetuity. Discussions have to come to an end and so I think we have broadly agreed that we will spend the next month talking to each other to each other to see if we can find common grounds … So we’re a long way off but it’s a very, very important start,” he said.

The Civil Service Association (CSA) was the only trade union movement on the island that was not present for recent meetings with government officials. CSA President Mary Isaac said the move to boycott that meeting was made based on the belief that government has already decided on a five percent cut in public servants salaries.

Prime Minister Dr. Anthony said he hopes all unions will be represented at today’s meeting.

“I don’t think that they keeping away is a good thing for their members. Let it not be said that the government is not keeping its doors opened,” he said.

“Just like when we went through that testing period of negotiations, and we kept our doors opened, so our doors will always be opened to the Civil Service Association. They are our primary employees…” he added.

Dr. Anthony hopes that Isaac will change her views on the matter and show up for the meeting. He declined to respond to allegations she made in the media recently.

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