APBSA: Workers' patience running thin

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The planned move to establish an escrow account to pay public workers their outstanding monies has been commended, but the government is being warned that employees are not prepared to wait.
General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) Sandra Williams, told OBSERVER media yesterday that the amount owed to public officers is in the millions.
“It will take a long time for government to liquidate those arrears now and the government doesn’t have the time. Time is not on their side right now because civil servants are agitated. The proposed amount owing to civil servants alone is about $51 million,” Williams said.
During Thursday’s post-Cabinet meeting, Daryll Matthew, the national festivals minister, said $500,000 per month will be specifically set aside in an escrow account to pay public employees the monies due to them.
Matthew added that the government does not plan to have the issue of outstanding payment hanging around for too long.
Workers in several government departments are owed back pay for increases for years, in addition to allowances and other payments.
The ABPSA membership proposed they be paid what is equivalent of three months of their current salary as a write-off of the sums owed. The government countered with just a month or six weeks and since then negotiations have been at a standstill.
Williams said yesterday that it would take approximately three years just to raise the estimated $17 million civil servants are proposing they be paid to write off what really is a $51 million debt.
“Civil servants are not going to wait three years. We find the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda lack social grace. They need to understand that there is something called social dialogue and time and time again this is showing its ugly head,” she said. “They have to do better than that.
“The ABPSA’s negotiating team was expected to receive the news that the first payment for the back pay would be coming by the end of June, but the pronouncement makes it seem like it is going to be impossible.
“Workers are expecting that part payment for one and a half month would be able to assist them because this is the time of year they have graduation for their children and even some of the parents will be graduating. This the hurricane season and we need money to start to prepare and many of them have outstanding obligations that need attention. They are getting agitated and every day I have to face this,” she added.

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