PM Offers Compromise On Teachers’ 3%
When we left you on Friday the teachers unions said it would be extending its strike until at least Wednesday of this week, because the Prime Minister had put off a meeting with them to discuss the 3% salary increase. Well, the PM didn't want to be held responsible for extending the strike, so he brought up the meeting to today. The PM and his senior financial advisors met with the teachers union, as well as the Public Service Union and The Association Of Public Service Senior Managers - what is called the joint union negotiating team at the Biltmore. When he came out, he seemed confident Government had proposed a meaningful concession. Here's:...
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"I received a communication from a Good Samaritan yesterday that if I moved up the meeting there was a likelihood that we could reach agreement and naturally the quicker we can end the strike, the better. I think it went well. I made some proposals which certainly two of the 3 unions have already signaled that. The BNTU says it is taking those proposals to its council of management this afternoon and it is likely that by the time of our press conference at 2pm, their position should also have been made clear."
Daniel Ortiz, 7News
"Are you able to share any details as to these proposals you made, just to give us a general idea?"
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"I have no difficulty with that. In return for what would then be the unanimous acceptance of the deferral of the 3% adjustment to next year April. At that time government would also pay a 5% interest rate on the sum deferred. Which I think should basically come up to something like $600,000 or between $600,000 and $700,000 which would then be prorated among the recipients of the deferred salary adjustment. That's one off of course. That doesn't carry forward."
"With respect to the social security expanded coverage which I've signaled from before I absolutely support, that would have to come about by way an amendment to section 13 of the social security act. The unions I proposed can form a working group. It's against abuse. Once they've done that, they will get that to me, we are happy with it, the drafts man in the attorney general's ministry will then prepare it for submission to the house. Cabinet will naturally look at it. It will be a cabinet paper, approved it, we take it to the house and try to pass it at the earliest. But naturally having it go to a committee at which the public will be entitled to way in."
"In other words, passage of the amendments cannot be guaranteed. It's a matter for the national assembly and certainly we of course in introducing those amendments would be supportive, but the processes would have to be followed."
As you saw in our story, the leaders of the BNTU left the Biltmore Plaza Hotel right after the meeting with the Prime Minister. They declined comment saying they needed to discuss the proposals. But the leaders of the other two unions, namely the PSU and the APSSM, were more forthcoming. Here's what Eldred Neal and Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer had to say:
Eldred Neal, President, Public Service Union
"Both of the presentations are taken, will be considered. Membership, I want to take the opportunity to speak to them - please look at your emails, those of you who have been in the chain. If you don't have it, expect it from your chairperson. We will be sending those off before 5 this evening. As for you to relate your way forward as it relates to the 2 proposals that were made and in fact I think we are heading in the right direction and it brings me right back to that position that I maintained - negotiations are still on."
Sharon Frazer, Senior Magistrate
"From the very beginning, we were for the deferral. As I've said to people, based on the feedback I got from my members, even before arbitration, even before Earl, so that our position remain the same. We are agreeable to what was proposed to us today and like PSU, I intend to send that out to my members so that they are aware of what took place here today."
But, the strike continues, for now at least. Keep your kids home tomorrow, because the teachers union leaders will now take this proposal to all their district branches tomorrow morning at 10:00 where the branches will decide if it is satisfactory - and then take that decision back to the national body. We'll have that news tomorrow.