One of the noticeably absent voices from the usual Opposition chorus in Parliament yesterday was Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s
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Rowley blasts SRC
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday slammed the Salaries Review Commission (SRC), saying it was disrespectful and out of step in its 98th Report for salaries and other benefits for MPs. The report was presented for debate in the House of Representatives by leader of government business Dr Roodal Moonilal.
It contained salary increases and other benefits for some 900 top officials in the country, including the president, prime minister, chief justice and opposition Leader. The SRC recommended a 24 per cent hike in monthly salary for many of those officials.
But Rowley was not impressed by the SRC report, saying it was done in a “poor” and “illegal” manner. Admitting to legislators he had a problem with the document, Rowley said it appeared the SRC felt the work of MPs had diminished, or that the country cannot afford to pay MPs proper salaries. He said: “The deputy chairman of the SRC earns more than a MP. That’s madness, doesn’t make any sense.
“I think there is a certain amount of malevolence that comes from the commission to members of this House. And if the rest of you want to accept it that is a matter for you. I reject it.” Rowley said he worked very hard “for whatever is given to me as my emolument and I haven’t been complaining, but I will complain now when I see I am being disrespected by a commission that takes the position that my time and effort are worth nothing.”
Noting that the SRC was established in 1976 to review the salaries and other conditions of officials under its purview, Rowley said this was done to prevent parliamentarians from setting their own terms and conditions of employment.
Rowley said another report, which was requested by Cabinet from the House Committee, was more in keeping with the requirements of parliamentarians but was rejected by the Cabinet. He said the Cabinet had failed the House Committee, which was established on September 9, 2013, and chaired by Housing and Urban development Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal. Other members of the committee were Anil Roberts, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, Nela Khan, Colm Imbert and Nileung Hypolite.
Rowley said he expected the SRC would have considered facts and not fiction in making its report. The Diego Martin West MP said the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led Cabinet failed to properly assess the House Committee report, which was prepared following the SRC report. He was also critical of the commission for saying in its fifth consecutive report that it was not able to treat with MPs because of the need for an assessment of workload and contributions.
Rowley asked how could the commission find resources to violate basic industrial relations practice, adding the only thing they did of significance to MPs was to take away their entitlement to duty/tax exemptions on cars they buy for their official use. Rowley said this was not negotiated and must be rejected outright as it was wrong in principle. “Where did the SRC get the authority from to want to change a Cabinet decision?” Rowley asked.
“That should have been ignored out of hand. There is a mindset that parliamentarians aren’t worth anything and they could be treated in the most off-hand manner.” He said the only people on the public payroll over whom the public has any control are MPs. “If you don’t like what they are doing, then you vote them out of office next time. We are the only people who the members of the public have any control over, not permanent secretaries, not directors, not manages in state enterprises,” Rowley said.
He insisted the work of the parliamentarians was not a part time job. “I know that there are those outside who say we are arguing for a pay increase. That’s not the argument I am making, I am making an argument for fair treatment and more importantly, to ensure that colleagues on both sides of the House are available to the House.”
Nobody happy with report
Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner also asked acting Prime Minister Errol Mc Leod how the salary of the Commissioner of Police could be less than that of the president of Niherst, as was recommended by the SRC. The SRC is recommending that the CoP be paid $31,050 a month, while it recommended a salary of $32,050 for the Niherst president. Moonilal said the increase will be retroactive to October 2011. He said the SRC was expected to begin a new review of salaries and other benefits for the officials in 2015.