Backpay proposal “laughable” – union leaders

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The government’s proposal to give public servants one month’s gross salary in lieu of back pay owed for more than a decade has been met with derision from some union leaders.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne floated the idea during his presentation of the national budget on Thursday at parliament, saying that the negligence was due to the government’s financial constraints.
“Given the time that has elapsed, the process and timeframe for completing the paperwork for payment of the back pay would likely be very protracted. In this regard, the government proposes to settle the outstanding back pay by offering every public servant who was employed with the government on December 31, 2002 one month of his/her basic current salary, free of any deduction,” Browne stated.
The issue was raised during discussions on the Big Issues on OBSERVER Radio with the panelists being Sandra Williams, general secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association; Samuel James, president of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union; and David Massiah, general secretary of the Antigua Barbuda Workers Union.
“It’s laughable, because for so many years my understanding now is that the amount that is owed to public officers is seventy-odd million dollars and … now you’re coming in 2018 to tell public officers that you are prepared to give them one month’s salary and that wipes out that debt.
“Millions of dollars that is owed to them? These very persons, most of whom are making just above minimum wage? We can’t continue to rob our poorest, and this is what I equate this to, robbing the poorest in the country,” James declared.
The union leader also dismissed the $10,000 grant offered to public servants as a down payment on homes, saying most of them could not afford a mortgage. Massiah also agreed that the proposal was “laughable.” “Because I cannot understand for a government to owe public officers, and the amount is $71 million and it’s owed for the period 2000 to 2004. This should have been converted into a 10-year bond and given at the rate of four percent per annum and that should have matured in 2016.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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