As wage talks continue between the government and the Public Service Union, a proposal recommending differentiated salary increases for public servants has been put forward.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan said the government does not believe that across-the-board increases for public servants is the solution at this time.
According to a release from the Government Information Agency, the government believes it’s proposal is in the workers best interest and is expected to contribute to a more meaningful reward for labour for public sector employees.
“It’s about wages, allowances, merit increment and also de-bunching so some people will end up getting even more because to de-bunch you may have to give one increment or two increments. It’s an entire package,” Minister Jordan said.
Across-the-board payments for public sector employees contributes to the blurring of salary scales and widens the gap in public sector wages and salaries, Minister Jordan added.
“The union asked for across- the-board (increases), we said we are not going down that road. I don’t know whether the union has accepted it or not. What I’m saying is that across- the- board has widened the divide, it has literally destroyed scales and all these things. I give you 40 percent across the board, you are earning $1M, the increase is $400,000. I give you the same percent increase, you are earning $100,000, how much is the increase? Look at the gap,” Minister Jordan explained.
Jordan told the Government Information Agency (GINA) that, “We have also offered to look at the allowances as soon as we are finished with the salary negotiations. We have already named our members for the allowances’ committee, we have also offered to look at merit increment.”
Meanwhile the Finance Minister pointed out that the minimum wage set for the private sector some three years ago was intended to protect workers from exploitation and the time has come for the revision of that minimum wage; since in the public sector (the minimum wage) is now $50,000 and the private sector uses public sector wages as a benchmark for wages and salaries.
However, Minister Jordan hastened to point out that it is important that government takes care in establishing minimum and other levels of wages and salaries because there are long-reaching consequences attached to them .
“I agree with all the unions and so on to make a big pitch for their workers, but at the same time policy makers have to be wary of what it would do to the broader macro-economic fundamentals of the country, especially competitiveness, and its impact on inflation and exchange rate deterioration. All of that could retard growth and at the end of the day, instead of promoting welfare, it can reduce welfare of the citizens,” Jordan pointed out.
Addressing reports of underpayment in some departments in the public sector, among them the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), the Minister said this is contrary to the law and must be addressed since especially in the case of the NDCs “… each one gets a transfer and I would think it should be at least enough for them to pay the minimum wage.”
The Minister further advised that wherever the minimum public sector wage is not being paid to public sector employees an approach should be made to the Ministry of Labour.
“As government bodies, they ought to be complying with the national public service minimum wage, and if it is not so they ought to have a chat with the Labour Ministry for them to do whatever investigations they should,” Jordan said.
The minimum wage for public sector employees is $50,000 while that set for private sector employees is $35,000. Minister Jordan said the time has come for the private sector’s minimum wage to be revisited.