The following is a press statement issued by the Ministry of Public Service, Information and Broadcasting regarding the outstanding payment of wages and adjustments in salaries for workers of the National Workers Union:
In light of the inaccurate information being reported by certain sections of the media in relation to the payment of outstanding wages and salary adjustments to workers belonging to the National Workers Union (NWU) for the recently concluded collective agreement for the triennium 2010 to 2103, the Ministry of the Public Service, Information & Broadcasting wishes to clarify and inform the public of the issues surrounding the outstanding payment of wages and wage adjustments to the workers of the NWU.
The following provides the chronological sequence of events on the finalization of negotiations between the government and the National Workers Union:
• Negotiations between the NWU and the government negotiating team (GNT) ended on June 14, 2013.
• A memorandum on the collective agreement between the government of Saint Lucia and the NWU was submitted to cabinet on June 28, 2013.
• On July 22, 2013, a cabinet conclusion dated July 8, 2013 was issued and received by the ministry of the public service on July 24, 2013. It must be noted generally that cabinet decision takes approximately two weeks to be ratified.
• Upon receipt of the cabinet decision on July 24, 2013, the ministry of the public service immediately engaged the accountant general’s department on the most efficient manner and time frame in which the wage settlement could be made to the workers.
• During the ensuing discussion between the ministry and the accountant general’s department, it was recognized based on the varied and differential wage settlements for the different categories of workers, payment could not be possible on the July 25 [which is] government’s scheduled payday. Hence, it was proposed that payment of the negotiated wages be settled in two (2) phases – the first on July 31, 2013, and the other at the end of August 2013.
• In keeping with this proposed payment plan, the management of the ministry of the public service contacted the management of the NWU by telephone to inform of the same and promptly followed up in writing by letter dated July 25, 2013.
• Between the period July 25 to July 31, the ministry of the public service held several discussions on the progress of the agreed payments both of the new wages and the back-pay with the accountant general’s department.
• On July 30, the accountant general’s department informed the ministry of the public service that it was unable to make payments of the new wages on July 31, as agreed because of the complexity involved in programming government’s payroll system to effectuate payment, given the varied and differential wage agreements for the different categories of workers.
• The ministry of the public service immediately contacted the management of the NWU to inform the union of the situation faced by the accountant general’s department; with promises firstly, to continue dialoguing with the accountant general’s department to ascertain how quickly this matter could be resolved and secondly inform the NWU by 10 o’clock the following morning July 31, 2013 of the agreed approach to be adopted.
• On the morning of July 31, the members and management of the NWU visited the ministry of the public service without prior notification. The management of the ministry of the public service invited the management and members of the NWU to a meeting to explain the challenges that the accountant general’s department encountered in making the retro-active payments and as a result the accountant general’s department was unable to make the payments on July 31, 2013 as was previously agreed upon.
The management and staff of the NWU were also informed that the accountant general’s department would be working assiduously in getting the matter resolved at the earliest.
• On the afternoon of July 31, 2013, the ministry of the public service invited the management of the NWU, and accountant general’s department to a meeting to discuss the current situation faced by the accountant general’s department and to discuss possible options for addressing this matter.
• Following comprehensive discussions with the accountant general’s department, the following schedule was agreed upon:
1. Daily paid workers will receive their retro-active settlement on August 15, 2013
2. Daily paid workers wages will be adjusted in time for the August payroll
3. The retro-active payments and wage increases for monthly paid workers will be determined at a future date. As soon as notification is received by the ministry of the public service from the accountant general’s department of the date for payment, the management of the NWU will be immediately notified.
On behalf of the Government, the Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting sincerely apologizes for the delay in the settlement of wages negotiated with the NWU. The Ministry is working very closely with the accountant general’s department to ensure that the new payments for the workers represented by NWU are made at the earliest possible time.