Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke has given Finance Minister Colm Imbert until the first week in March to instruct the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to meet with union on outstanding wage increases, or else face a major uphill battle.
“Advise your CPO to call us and let’s go around the table and continue our negotiations. That’s mandatory, by law, that we negotiate. Stop looking for a battle,” Duke said.
On Wednesday at a news conference, Imbert announced that the Government cannot afford to increase wages in the public sector, as he said that the State’s primary objective was to preserve jobs and maintain essential Government services.
“In this context, demands from trade unions for wage increases, with associated billions of dollars in backpay, are difficult to understand. With a persistent budget deficit and uncertainty as to when the global and local economy will fully recover from the destructive effects of Covid-19, we simply can’t afford significant wage increases at this time,” he said.
The PSA president at a news conference yesterday, at the union’s headquarters in Port of Spain, said the public sector is fed up of the minister’s bullying tactics and cautioned him against “thrusting fists” in the face of workers, assuring that any such action will be met with a response from his union and the workers.
Duke told reporters that at a meeting in March 2020, with the CPO, the union was assured that the monies were available to increase workers’ allowances by 10 per cent this year.
“In the said meeting with the CPO raising the minimum wage to $10,000 was also discussed, as I have been saying, it’s unjust for a clerk to be working for $5,000 in the 20th century, while Imbert owns a fancy car and yacht.”
He noted that the last meeting the PSA had with Imbert was when an agreement of nine per cent was reached for the period 2014-2016 for National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago workers.
The union head added that salaries are not based upon what the Government can pay, as salaries are based upon what is required for the workers.
“The PSA has workers working at the Treasury Division in Port of Spain and they have reported that there are funds available to facilitate wage increases. Without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, we are demanding that you give the CPO instructions to meet with us in the first week in March,” Duke said.