Will teachers, public servants ask for 15 percent wage hikes?

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 I thought URP had been replaced by CEPEP some years back but I had it all wrong.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.

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