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Unions Signal They’Ll Want Pay Rise Too

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMAS Public Services Union (BPSU) President Kingsley Ferguson has warned the government should expect demands for a “general” wage increase in the “underpaid” public sector if the Minnis administration follows through on its plans for a salary increase for MPs.

Mr Ferguson, who replaced John Pinder earlier this year as BPSU chief, said while he welcomes and encourages the idea of a wage increase for parliamentarians, he strongly believes such a move should “come hand in hand” with an increase to minimum wage and pay reviews across the public sector.

Referring to reasoning provided by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis last week when he announced his government’s plan, Mr Ferguson said he was sure he could find “all types of people” willing to present their views for a “deserved” salary increase.

“We have workers that have to look at the reports of big contracts and massive payouts and then reflect on their lack of money for proper healthcare, school fees and, in most cases, everyday expenses,” Mr Ferguson told The Tribune.

“We can give an even greater justification and we intend to because the cost of living in this country, when placed next to what public service workers and persons making minimum wage [earn], we see that life in the Bahamas is really and truly close to unliveable.”

The current minimum wage is $210 per week.

During contributions as debate wrapped up in the House of Assembly on a constitutional amendment bill to create an independent Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions last week, Dr Minnis said an independent committee would be established to review all salary structures for government entitles.

Dr Minnis asserted the time had come for a serious review of wage scales in the public sector, albeit due to the prevalence of high wages and contracts handed out by the Christie administration while in office.

Dr Minnis said: “I only want to put the nation on notice that the time has come when individuals are being paid by that [former] government half-a-million per annum, individuals are receiving contracts up to $800,000 and the Members of Parliament are being paid $28,000. I want to put the country on notice that at the next budget I will come forward with a pay increase for the Members of Parliament.”

He added: “I will establish an independent committee who will look at the members’ salaries, who will look at salaries for these half-a-million, these $800,000 and these contracts signed a few hours before election, all of that will be reviewed. [The committee will] review all salary structures for government entitles.”

In response Monday, Mr Ferguson said “major concerns” with the standard of living afforded to labourers across the country make any extensive debate on the issue “unnecessary.”

He told The Tribune: “We’ve been agitating for wage increases for years. The political discussion is far and away from the point that persons working across the public sector are underpaid.

“If this is the way for us to start the conversation, I am all for it because it has been a long time coming. We are open to meeting with the government and laying out a terms and reasoning also.”

Shortly after Dr Minnis made his announcement last Thursday, Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson suggested parliamentarians should make $60,000 to $70,000 per year, likening their current pay to “janitorial salaries.” 

His comments have since sparked anger from some in the opposition who have called on him to apologise.

“I think that $28,000 a year is highly ridiculous,” Mr Robinson said last week. “Members of Parliament are being given janitorial salaries. It is no easy task out there and if we are serious about stemming this tide of corruption then we must have a balanced approach to it and I think this increase would give that balanced approach.”

As leader the Official Opposition, Dr Minnis rejected the Christie administration’s suggestion to raise the salaries of parliamentarians in 2014.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 11 months, 1 week ago

Our new sheriff has invited this nightmarish political blunder by once again shooting-from-the-hip without thinking - much like Donald Trump does. Why should only our 'elitist' elected government officials get an increase in pay to help fight their urge to otherwise delve in corrupt activities? Surely all of our other government officials and civil servants should also be paid more as a means of helping fight corruption. And no matter how bare the cupboard may be, somehow the money can be found by our PM - after all, if the money needed does not magically fall on us from the heavens above, it can always be borrowed! That's the way that Greece did it for decades. But look where that got Greece at the end of the day - steeped in public sector corruption and unsustainable national debt! The IMF/EMF gleefully stepped in to effectively take control of that country's economic affairs. And what's the first thing the IMF/EMF did to try and restore economic stability for Greece? Yep, you guessed it - sell off valuable assets of the state at fire sale prices to foreigners and impose a harsh austerity program whereby the salaries and benefits of government officials and public sector employees were slashed to the absolute bare bones minimum. Obviously this resulted in much grief and financial hardship for all those affected by the draconian cost saving measures.

But something positive is now gaining traction among Greek voters as a result of their very hard learned lesson. They now know they should be seeking to fill elected offices with financially independent individuals who demonstrate an altruistic motivation for public service - men and women who have made it on their own in life and are willing to serve the greater good of the nation. As Bahamians, we would be wise to remember Greece's lesson when we next go to the polls.

Unfortunately it seems many of the newcomers to our parliament came there looking for a pay cheque rather than seeking to fulfill the honourable and noble privilege of engaging in public service at the highest level. For this we can only blame Minnis and the FNM party for not having nominated the right calibre of MP candidates across the board. The last general election was a golden opportunity to have done so because of the overwhelming anti-PLP sentiment that existed. But true to form, Minnis and the FNM party squandered that opportunity and went with popularity, friendship and loyalty as the main determining factors for candidacy. Sadly, that has continued to be the case in the various appointments made post-election! Minnis does indeed seem to be a novice politician prone to a great number of humongous political missteps and errors in judgement.

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DDK 11 months, 1 week ago

Very good epistle Mudda, even though you lean so heavily on our poor PM! The analogy between Greece and the EU fat cats and our country and its political leaders DOES keep coming to mind. As with Greece, learning from their hardships and root causes is, indeed, the key.

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Reality_Check 11 months, 1 week ago

Trust me, there's nothing altruistic about Craig Flowers, or Sebas Bastian for that matter. I laugh each time these corrupt thugs throw a mere pittance of their unjust riches to any kind of charitable cause in an effort to portray themselves as something that they clearly are not.

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birdiestrachan 11 months, 1 week ago

Mr Culmer of the FNM is what Kelly is to Trump, The liar said the PM said all Civil servants that is not true, he also said it is the PLP fault that this story is out and about. Culmer has to do better if he expects any one to take him seriously.

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jujutreeclub 11 months, 1 week ago

Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis indicated that he will establish an independent committee to review the government salary structure.

Please follow the news birdie and stop going on your own assumption, because when you assume, you know what people say about that.

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sheeprunner12 11 months, 1 week ago

Bahamian MPs make USD$28,000 per year ....... while Cayman MPs make $105,000 per year ..... That is why Minnis wants a pay raise .......... now compare civil service salaries in the Caribbean.

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Baha10 11 months, 1 week ago

Cayman is far more cleaner, organized and in turn, civilized, so only fitting that their Civil Service should be appropriately rewarded for doing a good job.

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DDK 11 months, 1 week ago

MP raises need to go to the very back burner at this time. Agree with our eloquent poster that Dr Minnis never should have made that brash statement. It does sound childishly as though he feels MP's should get raises because PLP lavished inordinate amounts of money on its cronies. Almost tit for tat. Ridiculous. Keeping the Country going, getting a handle on crime, improving the economy and keeping us out of the hands of the circling sharks should be the priorities at this time. Also feel press secretary is a waste of The People's money.

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Dawes 11 months, 1 week ago

Of course this is wanted. And in many instances deserved. Many civil servants are vastly underpaid. Unfortunately the only way for them to be paid the correct wage is for the civil service to be reduced in numbers and become more effective. However as soon as talk is given to redundancy the unions refuse to budge. As such the civil service will continue to be morbidly over staffed and not be fit for purpose, whilst those who could perform at the level needed and therefore compensated at the correct level will never get a chance.

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sheeprunner12 11 months, 1 week ago

But 40% of the civil service is barely making minimum wage!!!!! .............. watsayu????????

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Baha10 11 months, 1 week ago

Reduce the Civil Service by 40% and those that remain can be justly rewarded based on merit and performance.

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sheeprunner12 11 months, 1 week ago

Do some research ....... and find out WHO is in that 40% ...... then check out WHO gets the 1% contract salaries at the top.

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hnhanna 11 months, 1 week ago

All working persons should forgo any pay increase for 10 years (private & public).

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sealice 11 months, 1 week ago

Get the unions under control and we get control of the cost of living back in our country - until then keep bending over and letting the unions and BCC line up on ya....

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sheeprunner12 11 months, 1 week ago

Agreed ........... the Unions are promoting employee slackness in exchange for high wages and perks ........ 20,000 workers in this country hold the Government and private sector hostages every time there are negotiations. Meantime, the Parliamentarians can vote for their own salaries, perks and pensions ......... SMDH

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