Speculation that salary cuts may be impending for public servants continue to swirl, as government prepares to meet with leaders of their trade unions on May 2, ahead of the 2014/2015 national budget address.
A government press release on Tuesday April 22, noted that next week’s talks would be centered on government’s “proposals to reduce expenditure in the operations of the government of Saint Lucia.”
Pointing to the country’s fiscal deficit which went from 9.6 percent of GDP in 2012 to 6.05 percent in 2013, the government said in a letter to union leaders on April 17 that, a further reduction is needed in order that St. Lucia remains competitive and restores its financial credibility.
At the May 2, meeting the finance department is expected to make a presentation on the country’s economic performance. This will precede discussions on possible solutions to the current situation.
Questioned whether there is any truth to rumours of salary cuts of five percent for the public sector, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Jadia Jn Pierre-Emanuel told Saint Lucia News Online (SNO) that no decisions have been taken in that regard.
“We’re not yet at a point where the government of Saint Lucia has taken any decision,[or] has decided what the next step would be, [or] what the prescriptions are. What we will do when we meet with the union representatives on the 2nd of May is to have a presentation on the status of the economy,[and] on the performance of the economy over the past year; [Also], on the policy measures that were implemented from the last two years to now, [and] what the impact was and to [have a frank discussion basically and what some of the options are moving forward – [and] what the government of St. Lucia can do to deal with the situation seeing that borrowing is no longer an option,” she told SNO.
“So I cannot say that we are at the point where the government of St. Lucia has decided what the policy prescriptions are. However when we meet with the unions on the 2nd of May the cabinet of ministers will be engaging the public sector worker representatives to have exchange to have a discourse in an effort to find common ground,” she continued.
In March, Opposition Leader Dr. Gale Rigobert had called on government to hold talks with public servants on the possibility of their retrenchment as the country continues to undergo economic strain.
“Will the St. Lucian government be forced to send civil servants home? That is a conversation that needs to take place. There is no harm in engaging the citizenry of this country in a very frank and honest discussion as to the state of the economy,” she had stated.
The government, in response to this plea, issued a press release stating that it was baffled by Dr. Rigobert’s statements on the need for the government to engage the public and inform them of the true state of the economy.
“For two years now, Prime Minister Anthony has been consistent with his pronouncements on the economy. The Saint Lucian leader has used every opportunity to apprise the public of the state of the economy and the outlook as he moved to implement new policies aimed at recovery,” a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office stated.
The government further said in its release, “What therefore are these so-called policy prescriptions? Is the United Workers Party suggesting that the Government of Saint Lucia adopt the example the Government of Barbados by sending public servants home?”