October 26, 2007

Burgin: No compromising with workers’ benefits

President of the Public Service Union (PSU) Aubrey Burgin has made it clear that there will be no compromising when it comes to fighting for the betterment of his Union’s members.{{more}}

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Burgin said that any perception that the Union’s hierarchy supports the government and will, therefore, be soft in salary negotiations is misguided.

“Even if persons in the hierarchy of the Union support some polices of the government, we are not going to compromise when dealing with benefits for public servants,” Burgin stated forcefully.

The PSU has written to the Director General of Finance and Planning proposing a 15 per cent increase in salaries over the next two years: seven percent for 2007, retroactive from January this year, and eight percent effective January 2008.

He said that it is important that the public knows that the reclassification process, which was to be completed since July this year, and is now set to be ready for the New Year, is not a salary increase.

He said that the reclassification exercise is really a matter of “putting weight” to positions.

Burgin told SEARCHLIGHT that discussions were held with Ministry of Finance officials in early October concerning salary increases, but described those talks as general in nature.

“The Ministry of Finance did not have any figures to suggest,” he said.

He said that in a letter sent to the Director General of Finance, his Union and the other unions that signed the letter made it clear that they had no intention of forgoing salary negotiations, because of the increases reclassification may bring.

The letter, which was signed by Burgin and Joy Matthews of the Teachers’ Union, claims to also speak on behalf of the Police Welfare Association.

In the letter the unions claim that in 2006, the increase on the cost of living was four and a half per cent, but public servants were only given a three per cent increase.

“During the first half of 2007, it was reported that the inflation rate was between seven and eight percent. The reported increase has been mainly experienced in basic commodities and services, due in part to the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) on these items,” the letter states.

The letter further says that current world trends, including the price of oil, suggest that this level of inflation and the high price of food will continue.

Burgin told SEARCHLIGHT that no offer has been made by the Ministry of Finance as yet, but he is hoping that negotiations will go smoothly. (KJ)