Public-sector workers are disappointed that the salary increases and back pay promised by Prime Minister Gaston Browne might not be received before next year.
In an address to the Nation, weeks ago, on State television, Browne promised that government workers would be paid the outstanding funds and raises by December 2022.
However, in Parliament on Thursday, December 1 – in response to a question from Barbuda MP Trevor Walker – the Prime Minister qualified his promise, saying the Government would do its “endeavour best” to pay before the end of this year.
Addressing the raise in pay, Browne notes that an agreement has not yet been reached. He says that negotiations are taking longer than expected; therefore, he could not say definitively that the increase would be given before the end of the year.
According to Browne, however, the Government might have to pay a percentage of the anticipated increase – possibly before the end of December.
In the meantime, several public-sector employees tell REAL News they are “disappointed but not surprised” by the Prime Minister’s “back-pedalling.”
“When I heard [Browne] on TV saying that this, that, and the other would be paid by the end of the year, I took it with a spoonful of salt,” a teacher says, “because it all sounded like an election gimmick to me.”
Others say they were hoping to have extra money to shop this Christmas – including for big-ticket items like appliances – taking advantage of the expected reduction on the sales tax.
On the other hand, a financial planner tells REAL News that “the Browne Administration is simply giving itself room.”
She says that deferring the back pay and salary increases removes the immediate pressure from the Prime Minister – who is the Minister of Finance.
And if he loses the upcoming elections – expected in January – then the pressure will automatically be transferred to the incoming administration, the accountant says.
“The delay has nothing to do with union negotiations and everything to do with ALP politics,” she concludes.