FIRE Services Association head Leo Ramkissoon said a four per cent wage hike proposed on Wednesday by Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Dr Daryl Dindial was an improvement of the CPO's previous offer of two per cent (to all public sector workers) but fell short of the 15 per cent sought by the association. Ramkissoon spoke to Newsday after meeting Dindial.
Previously Dindial had offered all public workers a two per cent rise over eight years (2014-2021), comprised of zero for the years 2014-2017, one per cent for 2018, zero for 2019-2020, and one per cent for 2021. Ramkissoon said the CPO had proposed a two percent rise for 2016 and two per cent for 2019, amounting to a four per cent hike over a six year period (2014-2019).
"I can't say it was surprising. However it was disappointing." He said he had hoped the CPO would have made an offer closer to what his association had proposed and closer to the market shift for his workers, a figure calculated from wage-hikes for a basket of other workers at a similar level as fire fighters.
"What was offered was two per cent in 2016 and two per cent in 2019. The remainder of the years is zero, zero, zero, zero. It is a four per cent over six years.
"It is an improvement from the initial offer of two percent over eight years.
"But it is woefully inadequate in meeting the buying power which would have eroded well by over 40 per cent."
He said the association will have to respond to the CPO and then move the negotiating process forward.
Ramkissoon said the association was unfazed by the CPO allegedly saying that any failure of these negotiations would lead to the matter ending up in court.
He said, "There is always the court of public opinion."
Ramkissoon said the association had looked at comparative agencies to come up with a proposal of 15 per cent from 2014-2016 as a starting point for negotiations for the other years. He said under the Industrial Relations Act, his association would calculate their due wage-hike based on other workers such as estate police in the public sector, in bodies such as TTEC, TSTT and the Airport Authority. "Based on the average market shift for a comparable period, you can the market in TT had on average a 15 per cent market shift, a 15 per cent shift in salaries over that period."
Asked his final thoughts, Ramkissoon said his association was not seeking special treatment or any unfair advantage.
"We are hoping the government really maintains dialogue and continues to negotiate in good faith. I must admit that starting off at this point does not lend itself to a very promising process, but we are still hoping good sense will prevail and the State will take on board all of the circumstances that employees face and treat with us fairly."