ZERO, ZERO, ZERO.
This is the offer of salary “increases” made by Government through its Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to public servants.
Incensed by this offer, president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke yesterday declared “war” and promised to lead street demonstrations in response, very early in May.
Speaking at a press conference outside the PSA’s head office in Port of Spain, Duke said that late last week, the PSA received a written offer from the CPO for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
This offer came days after Finance Minister Colm Imbert declared he was seeing early signs of an economic recovery. Imbert said he would reveal more when he presents his mid-year budget review next month.
On the government’s offer, Duke said, “That is an offer the PSA rejects in the face of gas and diesel prices increasing tremendously and affecting all goods and services, in the face of NIS increasing, in the face of 7,000 items once zero-rated but now attracting VAT of 12.5 per cent, and in the face of impending property tax.
“The property tax is set to be brought before Parliament this week by a bill on Thursday that will see commercial properties being taxed five per cent their annual rent and private properties three per cent their annual rent. We have thrown our hands in the air and said, ‘It cannot be business as usual.’” He said the PSA would not allow Imbert, “to impose upon the citizens a vexatious property tax.” Along with the tax increases, he warned, biscuits, Crix, salt fish, transport and everything else would go up again, while PSA members are living with an income fixed to the year 2013.
Duke said public servants also want retroactivity with the zero per cent, just as there was to be retroactivity with property tax.
He said the PSA’s demands will start at a position of a living wage at which every worker would spend no more than 30 per cent of their salary on a place of rest, whether rented or a mortgaged home. With a salary of $5,000, he said, a clerk spending $1,500 cannot get a place to rent, so they are basically living on a “subsistence wage” akin to a meal allowance.
“We want to balance the equation and ensure that (for) the lowest-paid worker in this country, 30 per cent of their salary must equal at least $2,000,” Duke said.
“We will no longer stay in our offices and accept the utterances from the minister as a true depiction of the state of our economy. Instead we will go in the highways and the byways, awake the consciousness of our members, and we will take to the streets.”
At the launch last week of new container scanners at the Port of Point Lisas, Imbert told reporters the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast two per cent growth for the TT economy and this was in keeping with his ministry’s projections. On the IMF suggesting the TT economy had “turned the corner,” Imbert quipped: “I hope they are right.”
Up to yesterday Imbert was acting prime minister in the absence of PM Dr Keith Rowley. He could not be reached for comment, as calls to his cellphone went unanswered. Newsday tried to contact former PSA president and current Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, for a reaction to the 0-0-0 offer to public servants, but was told she was in a meeting.