Fifteen percent increase for URP and CEPEP workers? I thought URP had been replaced by CEPEP some years back but I had it all wrong. URP hasn’t closed at all. It has an up to date website that gives details about its 16 units and its 4-6 week programmes that people can sign up for including a special program to teach Women marketable skills while they work. There is no indication where the Nursery facilities announced in the Budget speech where single mothers can place their infant children while they work, will be located,. Hopefully, these nurseries will be staffed by Servol-trained caring staff who mothers can trustfully leave their children with while they work. Servol already co-operates with the Ministry of Social Services and has sixty-two operating early childhood care centers so that the government will not have to spend its shrinking budget on building or renting new ones. This iniative is genuine good news foe women who are kept in a kind of servitude to their “Baby Father’s” who often only provide milk and pampers money in return for sexual services that produce yet another child for the young mothers to stay home and care for.
CEPEP , however is a bit more of a mystery. It’s Internet presence reveals that no work events are scheduled for this month, and no information about the workers that are to be given the 15% increase.is on the Net, only the names of the ten people on the Board of Directors. Are they those that will be receiving the increase, then? And that 15% is itself a mystery. Where did that figure come from ? And what will it cost the country? A 15% increase on 0 is still zero. If no farmers are registered because the relevant department of the relevant ministry has for years not issued them any leases so they cannot access loans or grants or tax benefits of any sort. For many of them a 15% increase on nothing is still no increase.
Is this the Ministry of Finance’s not-so-coded message a signal to the PSA? He must be aware that by virtue of his broad grin and triumphant “ arms in the air” victory stance in Parliament following the Budget speech on Tuesday that this signaled to the nation government approval of the measures announced. General jubilation all around on the Government Benches .It was touching to see such happiness at such largess being given out .
The next morning, looking at the newspapers or turning on the TV news, , you begin to ask questions.
Will that signal indicate to the striking teachers a fifteen percent increase in their frozen salaries? And a fifteen percent added to salaries of public servants will now be considered appropriate? And how about the Police officers, the Fire Officers and poor, neglected Prison Officers? We can safely assume that the daily paid workers in the Ministry of Works are included. That they will also at last be receiving pensions will endear the Minister to the thousands of daily-paid labourers, some of whom have worked there for thirty years with only their NIS pension to show for it at the end. That these are all cost centers, not income generating centers means that the fifteen percent increases will be generated from sources that the Minister of Finance no doubt knows about , but has not yet disclosed. Hopefully, however, this will come during the debate itself ?.
The 16.6 % increase in the Minimum wage has not caused much excitement. Few wage-paying jobs attract less than $20.00 per hour , now, but I must admit that it sounded good when he said it.
What is important is not the dollar amounts that are mentioned. It is the underlying message sent to the public as a whole. Is there a trade union registered that will now not demand a fifteen percent increase in salaries and wages for its members? Do not blame them! Do not forget that they are voted into office, like other politically oriented people. To keep their often very well-paid jobs they have to please their constituents or be voted out. Behind every leader there are always two other aspirants waiting to fill their positions.
While we applaud the increases in the income of the lowest paid we question the knock-on effects. One question will be to ask if, hopefully, the Ministry of Labour and the Industrial Court are well-enough staffed to cope with all the unresolved disputes asking for 15% increases that may be flowing through their doors ? Hopefully some public servants with their increased salaries will be moved to assist? Am I depending on too many “Hopefully’s”?
Let us not allow our questions, however, to overshadow the good news in the Budget And please note that there was some. No increase in gas prices, help for single parents (note also that such legislated benefits must be gender neutral , so that single fathers can benefit as well as single mothers) , the ban on single-use plastics and Styrofoam containers, and the assurance of legislation for Tobago self=governance , allowing them to raise their own loans …(presumably once they submit the audited accounts missing for the last five or six years?} are all welcome news.. OK. So it was a Pre-election Budget. There was some “smoke and mirrors”, but we all expect that by now. That the Minister managed to cut some ten billion dollars in expenditure is remarkable in itself and puts us on a sounder financial footing. Let us give thanks where thanks are due.