Union leaders, who sought not to be named, told News Diggers! that the proposed salary increment has spurred tension within the public service, leading to the formation of two camps of workers unions – one for those that want to accept the offer and move one and those that want to declare a dispute.
The unions are afraid that being the largest employer, government’s fashion of increasing salaries for public workers by such small amounts would inspire the private sector to follow suit and start giving their workers negligible salaries.
“Government is offering four per cent salary increase to public workers under the current negotiations that are going on. But the unions are not happy with this increment because if you look at it, it’s clearly nothing to write home about! The unions are not happy! But again, it appears there is a clique within the unions, which seems to be supporting government on this. They are saying ‘government has no money, it’s broke!’ But whose fault is that? And since when did the unions become spokespersons for government? So, those are the unions that are going to retard progress on this matter. Otherwise, the four per cent is clearly not sufficient for public service workers, looking at how the economy is biting. How does the government offer four per cent?” the union official wondered.
“And they are saying this four per cent should go up to 2020 and it looks like they are breaking through with that. But this is something the unions should sit down and critically consider because it’s a disservice to the members. The members are toiling so hard to produce goods and services for this country. And the government, as an employer, should come up with a four per cent increase? This is unfair and by doing this, they are sending a message to other employers to emulate what they are doing. Government is the biggest employer and they are sending a message to private sector employers to emulate what government is doing! They will simply say ‘if government can offer four per cent to its workers, who are we to offer anything bigger than that? So, government should lead by example and offer something meaningful to the workers to enable them meet the high cost of goods and services in this country.”
The unions insisted that public workers had a lot of challenges they were grappling with, and that the four per cent proposed increment would not meet all of them.
“They have to send their children to school on meagre salaries; they have to pay electricity; they have to pay rentals and their bank loans! So, all those should be taken into consideration by this government as an employer and offer a meaningful increment. Anything above 10 per cent could have made a lot of sense, not what they are offering. People know that the government is claiming to be broke, but should that be the fault of the workers? There should be prudence in the way government also manages its resources and ensure that the workers are given a good share of the national cake. The four per cent, which government has offered and which it has stuck to, is just unacceptable!” sources insisted.
Asked if the unions would take any action if government did not meet their demands, the source that the next course of action would be advised after the negotiations between government and the unions had been concluded.
“At this particular juncture, since it’s not official yet and processions are still going on, I don’t think we will take any action as unions. What it is that government has offered the four per cent increase and unions are still negotiating and discussing the way forward. So, for now, no action has been suggested. However, I would like to appeal to the unions to exercise maximum unity in the negotiations for better pay for our workers,” said the unions.