By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas Public Service Union is gearing up to pursue wage increases for its members in the wake of the government’s decision to increase the value added tax rate from 7.5 to 12 percent, according to union president Kimsley Ferguson.
In confirming that his union’s industrial agreement with the government had recently expired, Mr Ferguson yesterday said senior BPSU officials are working on a framework for a new agreement - one that would allow members to “rest assured” that they would be able to “live affordably”.
“Our agreement has expired,” Mr Ferguson said during a press conference. “We are putting together the numbers in that regard and shortly that would be forwarded to the Ministry of Public Service, so that we can come to the table and have a discussion in that regard.”
Mr Ferguson said his union hopes the government would give consideration to pay increases due to the rise in the general cost of living.
“We have done our due diligence and we would have looked at the various cost of living increases over the past 15 years and the fact that salaries remain at the various positions that they were at without any increases,” he said.
“And so, with that view in mind, we are going to present what we are going to present to the government with the hope that we are able to cause our members to have some additional funding in the salaries where they can actually live affordably,” Mr Ferguson added.
The Christie administration signed an industrial agreement with the BPSU in July of 2014 that, among other things, increased minimum wage for nearly 2,000 members by $800 a year.
For BPSU members who received an annual wage of $10,700, salaries were increased to $11,500.
In the lead up to that agreement, the union sought a 100-133 percent increase in the country’s minimum wage.
At the time, then BPSU president John Pinder called for a public sector minimum wage increase that at least matched the 7.5 percent VAT rate.
He argued that the sector was effectively “keeping the country afloat” with more than 70 percent of civil service salaries going to loan deductions.