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4,000 Tobagonian civil servants reject 2% salary increase offer

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PSA Chairman Leroy Baptiste said Tobago officials were rejecting the CPO’s offer of a 2% salary increase over eight years. – SUREASH CHOLAI

An estimated 4,000 civil servants employed in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) have outright rejected the government’s offer of a 2% salary increase over eight years.

Public Services Association (PSA) President Leroy Baptiste said so on Saturday, a day after union leaders at a press conference vehemently opposed the latest bid for the term. 2014-2021.

Union leaders have also threatened to shut down the public sector in the coming days in protest.

In his counter-proposal to the unions, the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO), Dr Daryl Dindial, offered no increase for the period 2014-2017, one per cent for 2018, no further increase for 2019-2020 and one for cent for 2021.

The visibly furious National Union of Government and Federated Workers General President James Lambert, one of five union representatives who attended the press conference, noted that it was the first time in history that “Such a disrespectful, disgraceful and hogwash proposal has ever been made.” public sector workers.

Baptiste, in a Sunday Newsday interview, said workers in Tobago joined their colleagues in Trinidad in “categorically rejecting” the 2% offer.

He said members of the PSA general council and conference of delegates, which includes representatives from Tobago, met virtually on Friday to discuss the development.

“It was transmitted to us without a shadow of a doubt that people feel insulted, disrespected. And the position in Tobago, as it was unanimous in Trinidad, is that it should be rejected outright.

Baptiste said members interpreted the offer as a “declaration of war on public officials.”

He added that the Tobago workers’ position will be conveyed in a letter to the CPO on Monday.

When asked what he thought of the offer, Baptiste said, “I echo the sentiments of the members. I think that’s absolutely disrespectful.

He said while some employees might have doubts about unions, the job of union leaders is simple.

Unions, Baptiste said, were created to help people maintain their standard of living.

“When you take a job, you work for a salary with that there is a certain amount of purchasing power. You go to the grocery store and you can buy a certain amount of products. There is a certain amount of fuel that you can put in your car.

“You can pay something, take out a loan. It is a question of purchasing power. That’s why you agreed to work.

Baptiste said that over time, a person’s purchasing power is impacted by the cost of living.

“Our job as a union is to try to deny the impact of the cost of living on your salary because you have to be able to put something back.”

He said that according to statistics from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) for the period 2014-2021, food prices increased by 44%.

“Understand what this means. If you buy an amount of goods for $100, that same amount of goods, you now have to find another $144 for it.

The price of super gasoline also increased by 121% over the same period, he noted.

“If it cost you, when you take a trip to Charlotteville $100 in gas, that same trip for the same amount of gas now you have to pay $221. This is what happened between 2014 and 2021.”

Baptiste said headline inflation, excluding food and energy, rose 22%, according to CSO statistics.

“So my job is simple. I have to go to this table and offer a raise so that people can maintain their standard of living because if I can’t do that, it means that suddenly you don’t have enough money to live like you were living in 2014. You have to find that money somewhere.

Baptiste believes that Tobago officials are in an advantageous position compared to their counterparts in Trinidad.

“Tobago is a slightly different economy. Due to the heavy reliance on the tourism market, people might have a side business. This is my experience of many of my friends from Tobago.

“But apart from a secondary commotion, what is going on? People who live pay check to pay check, borrowing from someone to repay someone. That’s what people did here (Trinidad).

He continued: ‘So when you see a union asking for a percentage increase, we didn’t pull it out of the blue. It is based on these realities.

Baptiste said workers cannot “go steal” to earn extra money to live on.

“So as a union, our job is to tell the employer that you who are responsible for running the economy, the job is to put that power back in the hands of the worker so that they can get at least the same levels of goods without having to steal or try to get a side hustle for it.

He said the unions rejected the CPO officer because “it makes no sense”.

Claiming that the government spends more than $50 billion a year, Baptiste said: “Our job is to ensure that the economic pie is shared for working people.

“We need to force the reprioritization of spending for working people in this country.”

Baptiste said the PSA planned to pursue the matter further at a press conference earlier this week.

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