The Public Services Association's (PSA) decision to accept a five per cent wage settlement with Government-which is estimated to cost $600 million-is now being termed a "sell out."The accusation was levelled against PSA president Watson Duke by angry public servants and union leaders yesterday. They are calling for Duke, who they said acted in a "high handed manner" to tender his resignation immediately.Meanwhile, union leaders, political analysts and economists who have estimated the proposal to cost in excess of $600 million have all expressed shock by the overnight turn of events.
And, while Duke has justified his decision to accept the proposal that is cushioned with housing and insurance benefits, Sunday Guardian learnt that the shocking development has caused emotions to run high among several members of the general council, leading to a face-off between PSA assistant secretary Joanne Capirette and Duke.Not mixing words, former PSA staff representative Merlin Barrow blasted Duke saying: "That is a sell out! Duke has to go. He had people in a charade up and down the county. It is a sell out. We hope public servants wake up now."
Former PSA head, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus also accused Duke of betraying public servants."It is a complete sell out...it is incredible. He is misleading members with regard to this million-dollar medical coverage; since 2009 the monthly premium was increased. Duke is misleading public servants." Attempting to make sense of the hastily made decision, economist Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir said the gloomy state of the economy may have been a factor.
However, Mahabir said Government needed to proceed with caution regarding the debt to facilitate this million-dollar payout. "The problem is the public debt. The public service debt would have to increase to almost $7 billion to compensate public servants. This is something they need to be wary about. The Minister of Finance needs to break his silence on this matter now."
Unions to Govt:PSA is no benchmark
Stunned by the wage agreement, President of Communication Workers Union Joseph Remy warned Government against using PSA as a benchmark to settle other wage negotiations."We are quite surprised and are still trying to internalise the sudden about turn by the PSA in respect to the wage negotiations. What is really alarming is that it was done without giving consideration to consult with fellow trade union leaders who took a united stand notwithstanding how other people felt. We took a united stand as trade unionists that five per cent was not enough for any public servant and by extension workers."The National Trade Union Centre who represents daily rated workers and those on contract and General Workers Union came out in full support of the PSA's plan of a massive shut down later this month to reject the five per cent wage offer by Government.However, the PSA has opted to settle for the wage proposal and other benefits.
Remy added: "The PSA has placed other trade unions who are in the stage of collective bargaining in a difficult position. PSA is the largest employee body and there are those who may feel this can be used as a benchmark. We are aware of the economic situation but workers are vital. We are not going to settle for the five per cent offer; we disagree strongly with that agreement because it is not going to augur well with the working class."President of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union Ancil Roget has also openly expressed his disapproval over the five per cent agreement. Yesterday sources said Duke has proceeded on vacation and may have travelled abroad.
Deal shocks political analysts
Political analysts who admitted to be taken aback by the overnight turn of events said details of such an agreement need to be made public.A shocked Dr Selwyn Ryan said: "I am very, very surprised. On the face of it, it looks constructive but it depends on the details because you have to weigh the monetary and social aspect of it and how it is applied."Echoing similar sentiments was Dr Bishnu Ragoonath who said he was caught completely off guard."I am literally in shock as to the fast settlement. More facts is definitely needed. It is clear the PSA was negotiating under pressure but this about turn is a shock to many."