Labour Minister: Let court resolve NIB wage clash

Minister of Labour Stephen McClashie. - Sureash Cholai
Minister of Labour Stephen McClashie. - Sureash Cholai

LABOUR Minister Stephen Mc Clashie on Thursday told Newsday the Industrial Court should be allowed to sort out the disagreement between the Government and the Public Services Association (PSA) over payments due to staff at the National Insurance Board (NIB.)

On Wednesday PSA head Watson Duke was due to re-file a claim of an industrial relations offence at the Industrial Court (after it was incorrectly done last week) against the Government.

The union is alleging the NIB failed to honour a 2020 collective agreement for workers to get a nine per cent pay hike for the period 2014-2016, and make retroactive payments for increases in paternity leave, car and repair loans, travel allowances and the cost of living allowance. Finance Minister Colm Imbert last week told the Senate he was seeking advice, as this agreement could cost $7 billion.

Mc Clashie told Newsday his ministry can have a role as conciliator if invited in by both parties.

"What I can say is that the NIB agreement, by way of process, came through the Ministry of Labour and went to the Industrial Court for a registration. The issue at hand now is as to the legality as to whether or not the management had the authority to enter into such an agreement."

He said the issue in question now was not the contents of the agreement but whether the agreement had got proper approval.

"One thing that's missing is that the standing orders that govern state enterprises say you need to go to the CPO (Chief Personnel Officer) to get final approval and sign off on any wages that you intend to implement. That process was not done.

"NIB management took advice that said they had the authority to do so, but the state enterprise manual clearly would have articulated that for such issues they would have had to have got approval from the CPO and Cabinet's Human Resource Committee, and that was not done.

"So I think the situation is a little complex and may have to be determined by the court at this time. The court will decide where that goes. It's already there, so it's sub judice at this point."

On Tuesday NIB workers publicly protested for these payments, supported by several trade union leaders, including National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) head Michael Annisette.

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