Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 29th 2015 Contents SBG4 | COVER STORY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MARCH 29 • 2015
Traffic gridlocked in all directions
for hours. An Oilfield Workers
Trade Union protest outside the
Prime Minister's Phillipine res-
idence. A possible stimulus for
the economy, but also threats of increasing
excess liquidity in the financial system and
exacerbating the foreign exchange shortage.
All of it, is connected to the number 14.
Two weeks ago, Public Services Association
President, Watson Duke, successfully nego-
tiated a 14 per cent salary increase for his
members for the period 2011 to 2013.
"It's a kodak moment, a picture perfect
painting." said Duke at his office during an
interview with the Sunday BG last Wednesday
where he was still celebrating his win, "Cer-
tainly, public officers are deserving of that 14
According to estimates given by Duke,
between 30 to 40,000 people will be going
home with more in their pay packets and an
average of $30,000, after tax, in backpay for
the three years.
"Wherever they go, they are able to take
that money now and do a little fixing up of
their homes, prepare for their children's edu-
cation, maybe pay down on a home, fix some-
thing on their car. They would be able to pay
off loans they have been carrying for a long
"There would be domestic consumption,
because the persons who will be getting the
work are the roofmen in the area, the mechanic
in the area, it will be the shops in the area,
it will be the banks in the area. Therefore, it
fuels the economy. The buying will not be
large enough to fuel any growth in inflation.
It is a small amount of money."
The Government has said that public ser-
vants will be paid some $1.19 billion in backpay
within three months along with their new
salaries, which will add about $350 million a
year in new recurrent expenditure.
But are these the only effects of the 14 per
cent increase on the economy? Are there any
potential negative spinoffs from the injection
of this cash into the system?
Trade unions: Practical vs.
Duke and other trade unionists who spoke
to the Sunday BG spoke lauded the positives
of the arrangement.
These included Joseph Remy, the president
of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions,
as well as the president of the Communications
Workers Union and Ancel Roget, the president
of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union and the
Joint Trade Union Movement. Both men con-
gratulated the PSA at an interfaith service
marking the 50th anniversary of the Industrial
Court last week.
"It will aid the economy because it will give
the public servants a little more disposable
income and you have 30 or 40,000 persons
who are now impacted by the settlement.
They would now be engaged in economic
activity that will aid the small and micro enter-
prises in terms of their own survival." said
Remy, who said "practical economics", should
be considered just as important as theoretical
"The economists will see it from their per-
spective but we can't be looking at just at the
macro-economic figures and statistics and
not look downstairs to see what is happening
to the public servants and the average citizens.
"The increase will impact thousands of fam-
ilies and it is going to raise the standard of
living of a lot of people in the society. We
don't see any negative impact on the economy
based on the increase," Remy said.
However, both Remy and Roget found that
government should also close long standing
negotiations with other trade unions and
thought 14 per cent a fair number for other
groups. Remy referred to the police roadblocks
on Monday last as an expression of the service's
dissatisfaction with their negotiations.
Remy said: "I am convinced that there is
no way. I cannot see the police and the pro-
tective services not being offered something
similar or higher. Because there is a benchmark
that the government has set."
"You are now saying, public servants will
get 14 per cent, PTSC will get 14 per cent but
the protective services can't get 14 per cent.
Something has to be fundamentally wrong
and flawed with that logic."
Essentially rubbishing views expressed by
the members of the business community and
several economists that the 14 per cent set-
tlement was likely to increase inflation, as it
was not tied to productivity, Remy again ref-
erenced the police protest, saying that traffic
was one of the biggest challenges to increasing
productivity in T&T, but until last Monday's
gridlock, few were willing to address it.
Roget added that productvity was further
affected when government took a "one-sided"
approach to negotiations, by settling the PSA's,
but not those of other unions.
"What you are in fact doing, you are pro-
moting inequity and discontent, all of which
would spiral into a serious impact on produc-
Back pay could worsen liquidity,
foreign exchange problems
Continued on Page 5
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