Public sector workers are the backbone of the governmental machinery that keeps this country going and the government is fully aware and sympathetic to the needs of our workers.
We recognize that each group of public sector workers has a unique and special set of circumstances that are reflected in the wage, allowance and benefits package they seek and on which the teachers now crave the government’s attention and indulgence.
However, in order to maintain the targeted wage to GDP ratio and remain fiscally responsible, we simply cannot accede to the requests at this time.
Our teachers have asked for an increase of $60,000 per annum in the book and software allowance. If this were to be granted, it would cost $1.7 Billion!
While we acknowledge the need for more resources for the teachers, there simply is no more room to absorb any further increase at this time, given the imperative to get to 9% wage to GDP.
We are asking our teachers to exercise patience and tolerance of the government’s current position as we work to build a stronger, more robust and resilient economy. This would allow us to provide more in the future.
All Unions and their constituents come up for review at the same time. Given the current negotiation cycle, it is simply impossible for the government to satisfy ALL the requests of each group.
Simply put, this would derail government’s economic reform efforts.
Despite the unique set of circumstances faced by the teachers, to accede to their requests would at this time mean that similar consideration would have to be given to all public sector groups.
Why We Need a New Negotiation Cycle:
This is also forms part of the reason that a review of the negotiation schedule is necessary at this time. The current two year cycle, with one year already gone, does not allow for the government to do all the things that are necessary to address the Unions’ claims.
Streamlining the cycles into a four year term would allow room for the government to complete talks with each group independently and allow better and deeper consideration to be paid to the issues of each group of workers.
Additionally, it would allow for better planning on both sides and for implementation of the reforms.
We are strategically trying to craft a more efficient system by which we can effectively handle the claims of each group.
Interestingly as well, under the previous administration, the wage negotiating cycle was set at 3 years.
We are urging our teachers to hold strain. We know the hard work that is involved, we know the conditions under which they work. Most of all, we know their value! We truly do.
We would love to grant all that our teachers ask but we must meet the wage to GDP of 9% as part of our fiscal responsibility framework.