CASTRIES, St Lucia, Tuesday March 5, 2013 – Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony Monday appealed to public workers to accept his government’s four per cent wage increase and prevent the island from “any further hardship” as workers stayed away from their jobs for higher salaries.
"Our country does not need mayhem, confusion and disagreement at this time, our people need to get together, we have a crisis on our hands to deal with and it is critical and crucial that we come together deal with it, but very clearly it has to be a shared responsibility across the board," Anthony said.
The St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (CCIA) Monday called for an end to the industrial action by public servants urging both parties to return to the negotiating table.
“This move we believe is correct and positive, as differences of this sort are best resolved through dialogue, proportionality, tolerance and understanding of the interests of all concerned,” said CCIA executive director Brian Louisy.
The public workers last week began their industrial action in support of the Trade Union Federation (TUF) over demands for increased salaries and wages that the government said it cannot meet.
Their actions have crippled the public service and schools for a second consecutive week and on Monday, the regional airline, LIAT, briefly suspended flights in and out of the George F. Charles Airport on the outskirts of the capital because of the lack of fire services.
Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony said that the country could only afford a four per cent wage hike for the 2010-2012 triennium while the TUF is sticking to its demand for a 9.5 per cent increase or six per cent with stipulated conditions.
Prime Minister Anthony who addressed the nation Wednesday and called for the impasse to go before arbitration, was again appealing for good sense to prevail, and for public servants to understand that their actions would hurt the entire country.
Monday he reiterated that the island’s finances were in serious problems and that “for the very first time the Caribbean Development Bank has listed us as a country in the danger zone, in the zone of others in unsustainable debt levels we are in danger unless we take corrective action.
"It may be difficult for our people to understand how serious our situation is, maybe statements that have been made in the past have then to doubt the veracity of what the government says, but we are not the only ones saying it, our financial institutions are pointing to the dangers that face us at this time," he said.
Anthony said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has completed an assessment of the national economy and is exceedingly concerned.
Despite the plea, the TUF said it expects the action by the workers to continue on Tuesday and that workers would meet on Wednesday to discuss the way forward.
Last week, Anthony said that the government would need an estimated EC$42 million (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) to meet the four per cent wage hike bill adding that this could also lead to reduction in expenditure for services to the population. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)