Contact: Office of the Prime Minister
Tuesday, April 21, 2009 – The Government of Saint Lucia concluded negotiations with Public Sector Unions towards the latter part of 2008. At the conclusion of negotiations a 14.5% increase over a 3-year period was approved for all public servants, for the triennium 2007 to 2010.
Government has thus far honoured the first two years of this agreement by implementing 3% and 4% respectively—a total of 7% of the 14.5% agreed to. Government’s total payments to date amount to approximately $25 million.
At the time of the negotiations, the global economic climate was undergoing a period of transition, and it is now known that global economic conditions have changed for the worst since the conclusion of these negotiations.
These global economic conditions are well beyond the control of the Government. In fact it is a world wide phenomenon which continues on a downward spiral and the impact of which is still unfolding.
Cognizant of this global economic crisis as well as the Government’s commitment to honour its agreement with the Unions, and also with the preservation of jobs of public servants in mind, the Government of Saint Lucia sought to utilize all possible options in order to honour its agreement.
Having due regard to the global economic conditions and also that of the performance of the local economy, it was realised that Government would be faced with an insurmountable challenge in balancing the exercise of honouring the agreement, as well as preserving employment.
Against this background, the Government invited representatives from Public Sector Unions i.e. the Trade Union Federation to a meeting to discuss the situation. At the meeting held on Wednesday 15th April, 2009 the Government reiterated that public servants were in fact entitled to the 7.5 % and this was not in issue.
This meeting centred on the global economic situation and the difficulty of the Government to honour its commitment in the current circumstances. The Trade Union Federation was therefore asked to consider a delay in the payment of the balance of the 14.5%. Possible scenarios for implementation at a later date including the issue of advancing negotiations for the next triennium were also discussed, and the Federation was asked to return with the sentiments of their membership as soon as possible. The Trade Union Federation gave an undertaking to return to the Government by Friday April 24th 2009.
Information reaching the Government suggests that all the issues surrounding its proposals may not have been clearly and fully articulated. The Government wishes to make it abundantly clear that it intends to honour its commitment. However, the severity of the global economic downturn has forced Government to review all its budgetary allocations, which unfortunately, includes the final tranche of the increase.
Government recognizes that it did engage in dialogue, at what may be referred to as the last minute; however the Government wishes to highlight that this was unavoidable as it sought to employ every alternative and strategy to honour its commitment.
Whilst the government is aware that certain statements have been made in the media with respect to the positions of Unions that have already met their membership, there has been no formal communication with the Government. The Government of Saint Lucia is currently awaiting feedback from the Trade Union Federation with respect to the proposals made at the meeting of 15th April 2009.
Government wishes to indicate that the process of dialogue is ongoing and that the country can ill-afford to engage in any activity which would serve to further undermine the stability of the country economically or otherwise. Government therefore calls on all persons to exercise responsibility in the conduct of dialogue, as it seeks to find an amicable solution to the situation.
The Government of Saint Lucia remains committed to preserving the level of employment within the public service, as well as safeguarding the economy.
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