Teachers union ready to conclude wage negotiations

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Public school teachers on the island have accepted Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s offer of one month’s tax free salary as government continues to negotiate with bargaining agents on a suitable pay raise and other benefits for public servants.
Ashworth Azille, who heads the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers, (A&BUT) said yesterday that the union signed a legal document on April 27, agreeing that it would allow the contract to commence from January 2018, with the understanding that the employer will pay the full month salary.
He also revealed that while the agreement has been signed, the government’s negotiating team is not in a position to indicate when this will materialise.
“Here is what I do know, we are not a union that is willing to wait forever to conclude negotiations, we do not like protracted negotiations and I want them [the government] to appreciate that in order to begin full negotiations on the substantive issues of that contract, that issue must be dealt with fully,” Azille declared.
The Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) of which the A&BUT is a member had rejected the offer which also covers back pay for some public servants.
The ABPSA said the one-month salary was inadequate and countered with a three-month salary payment. ABPSA had also further demanded that half of the three-month payment be paid out by Labour Day – this past Monday.
However, the government had earlier indicated it could not commit to any specific timeline due to financial constraints.
Defending his union’s stance on the matter Azille said, “I don’t care if they refuse it, this union has accepted it and so, we will not allow the full negotiation of our contract to be delayed by any one group, who determine that they want to hold out.”
He further stated that the union is not tied umbilically with anyone and the A&BUT is ready to conclude negotiations.
When the PM made the announcement of the one-month tax free offer, in January, he also revealed that government workers would receive an interim increase of five percent of basic salary and other benefits through the process of negotiations.
The teacher’s union boss also stated that this too is welcomed, stressing that it would not override the outstanding issues which are yet to be discussed.

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