President of The Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU) John Pinder and Minister of State of Finance Michael Halkitis yesterday signed a new industrial agreement for public servants.Photo: Lamond Johnson/Tribune Staff
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE annual minimum wage for public servants increased by $800 yesterday with the promise to renegotiate further increases if the government generates greater revenue from natural resources.
John Pinder, Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU) president, said there is a clause in the union’s new industrial agreement that will allow the union to request more money from the government in the event of commercial oil drilling or increased royalties from aragonite and salt mining.
BPSU officials signed the five-year agreement with the government after less than six months of negotiations, which Mr Pinder said was a record time.
The annual minimum wage for civil servants increased from $10,700 to $11,500.
Other key components of the agreement include fixed monthly hazard pay and risk allowance and increased pension benefits as a result of corrected National Insurance contributions.
Mr Pinder noted that the hazard pay and risk allowance will be terminated once the government’s health insurance scheme begins in 2016.
The agreement also mandates that performance appraisals are conducted by the end of each quarter of the calendar year, according to Mr Pinder, who said timely assessments will remove barriers to promotion opportunities.
He added that the union will now be consulted during promotion exercises in a bid to reduce inequality faced by Family Island workers.
Mr Pinder said: “We also were able to agree to open the salary scales to accommodate the two increments that persons will be receiving and also those who perform above average and are at the maximum of their salary scale, are still able to get a increment in the form of a lump sum payment.”
He added: “The general increase is for the minimum wage at this time. In 2016 the new budget year, is when the general increase will come for the entire public service when everybody will receive a double increment as an increase and that will be added to the base salary.”
Mr Pinder, who is also president of the National Congress of Trade Unions of the Bahamas, has called on the government to cancel a current aragonite production agreement and renegotiate new terms.
He forecast that if the government sought a new agreement, the public treasury stood to gain an estimated $4.2m in revenue.
Since then, Prime Minister Perry Christie has pledged a full review of the potential revenue associated with sustainable uses of the country’s natural resources, including sand, aragonite, aggregate and salt.
Mr Pinder said the union has reserved the right to negotiate further increases in pay for civil servants if royalties for the export of natural resources like aragonite are increased or if oil is struck in the Bahamas.
“With that in mind we believe that we ought to be able to come back to the table to be able to get what we asked for in the first place,” he said. “The government wasn’t able to do it because they said due to financial constraints – that’s the clause we have in our industrial agreement. If they do anything before 2018 to yield much more revenue from the national resources, we have the right to come to the table and ask for more for our members.”