THE EDITOR: I agree entirely with the views expressed by the distinguished retired head of the public service, Reginald Dumas, regarding the absence of a counter-proposal from the trade unions, in the public domain, to the offer of four per cent from the CPO.
Dumas has asked a very valid question, namely, where is the money going to come from? Moreover, he has also asked whether the unions have given careful consideration to the likely impact/ripple effect of a settlement beyond four per cent on our very fragile economy?
The unions have chanted: "No to four per cent." Is this a case of history repeating itself? Those of us who "in town long" would no doubt recall a similar chant of "No to six per cent," by the PSA, to the offer of six per cent over three years by the George Chambers administration in the 1980s. The Special Tribunal awarded two per cent over five years. Recently, an old friend of mine’s informed me that he still has his "No to six per cent" sticker. When will we learn?
The Government has indicated that its four per cent offer would result in backpay of $2.4 billion, and an annual increase in expenditure of $500 million. I dare say that some financial experts would argue that even the Government's offer is excessive and unsustainable, given the volatility of the market for oil, gas and petrochemicals – and our low production levels.
Have the unions given serious consideration to the Government's ability to pay?
Often enough I hear union leaders say the Government must make an offer that would allow their members to maintain the standard of living they enjoyed back in 2013. Really? How is that to be achieved? Government's revenue was $57.6 billion in 2013, and declined steadily since 2016, except for 2022, and reached a low of $33.3 billion in 2020.
Obviously, bilateral discussions have reached a deadlock. The parties should, therefore, take the necessary measures to advance these disputes to the next stage and, ultimately, to the Industrial Court, or the Special Tribunal, where appropriate. I have every confidence in the integrity, impartiality and competence of the administrators of justice in those institutions.
Each party would have to put forward very convincing arguments to influence the learned judges to rule in its favour. The judges are not going to succumb to bullying tactics, such as threats to shut down the country, or cause great inconvenience to the general public. Yes, a bully is a person who seeks to intimidate/coerce those whom they perceive as vulnerable.
The Government has indicated its willingness to have the negotiations under reference decided by the Industrial Court/Special Tribunal, as soon as possible. I hope the unions concur with that position and co-operates in the pursuit of whatever has to be done to achieve that objective.
LOUIS W WILLIAMS