THE call by the Government of Saint Lucia for other sections of the country to follow the example of the Trade Union Federation (TUF), which accepted a wage freeze for the period 2013-2016, has not impressed the Civil Service Association (CSA) and its President Mary Isaac.
Isaac has shown no inclination to go down that road at present, stating that the CSA is in no hurry in its negotiations with the government.
Member unions and associations of the TUF last week announced the completion of negotiations with the government for the 2013/2016 triennium and at the same time, conveyed to the government their understanding of the current economic situation facing the country. They said they were ready to assist the government by making certain sacrifices towards the alleviation of the situation.
“As a first step, in regard to conditions of work, all the affiliates of the Federation agreed to making proposals to government which would not have serious financial implications for the state,” the TUF said in a statement.
According to the Federation it understood that the restoration of the country’s economic fortunes do not entirely rest with government. Further, that it had earlier presented to the government a set of proposals which it believed, if implemented, can assist with improving government’s fiscal position and the country’s economic situation.
“On this occasion, the Federation has made a huge contribution to national development by offering to accept a wage freeze for the period April 2013 to March 2016. The Federation knows that this sacrifice will make a big contribution to improving the government’s fiscal position. It is the hope of the Federation that other sections of the country will follow the good example of its members in making sacrifice for country in times of need,” Julian Monrose, TUF President noted in a statement.
Isaac however is treading cautiously and is under no pressure to jump on the TUF’s bandwagon at this time, noting that during negotiations with the government for the March 2010 – April 2013 period, the CSA had offered a wage freeze to the government of zero, zero and zero for each of the three years.
“The government rejected our proposal and gave us four percent instead. We are taking our time on this one. We are negotiating in good faith,” Isaac said.
She added that while her members do have consideration for the country, she would not be making a decision now as to what direction her members would take in relation to the one taken by the TUF.
“I do not want to pre-empt anything,” she said.
Negotiations between the CSA and the government for this triennium are far from ending.
Isaac admitted that her members were hoping that negotiations would be completed this year but at the rate things were going it did not look possible.
Negotiations that were scheduled for yesterday had to be called off. The Government Negotiating Team (GNT) in a statement said that this was because of the lack of a quorum on the part of the CSA, despite the attendance of some CSA representatives.
According to the GNT the CSA’s general secretary had to apologize for the absence of key members who are part of the CSA’s negotiating team. The GNT added that it had received no prior notification regarding the cancellation of yesterday’s meeting.
“Given that it is not in the country’s best interest to have protracted negotiations, the GNT is fully committed to continued engagement with the CSA to complete the negotiation process,” the GNT said in its statement.
The two groups are still trying to reach agreement on fringe benefits and working conditions for CSA members who are government employees. Negotiations on salaries and wages have yet to begin.