Increments for public officers have been frozen for about three years, and they say they're not waiting for a fourth.

Freezing the increments was a part of the government austerity measures during COVID, and it was implemented first by the Barrow administration. But when the Briceno administration took office, they felt the public officers hadn't sacrificed anything, and so they continued to freeze the increments while slashing their pay by 10%.

That 10% has been restored, and now the joint unions say it's time to pay up in regards to their increments, especially since the economy has rebounded. In fact, they say it's growing so well, that the PM gave himself a 200% increase on his transport allowance.

So why can't the increment be unfrozen?

The joint unions - particularly the PSU and BNTU - hosted a press conference today where they said that the prime minister isn't willing to restore them this fiscal year - but they don't want to hear that.

Dean Flowers, President, PSU
"As it relates to the increments of public sector workers, the prime minister informed the joint unions that not only was he not prepared to restore increments in the upcoming fiscal year, but also that he was not prepare to restore public officers on the point where they ought to be when he his government decides when to resume the payment of increments. Now you'll hear me use the word restore versus resume and that's because the restoration or resumption of increments is neither guaranteed in 2024 because the prime minister informed that his administration wants to introduce pension reform which is another fancy name for contributory pension."

"What we've said to the prime minister is that we're prepared to have a conversation surrounding pension reform. But a conversation surrounding tax reform must also occur because it is currently the workers of this country and more importantly public sector workers who are carrying the burden of taxes while we have these unscrupulous businessmen who recently legislation was passed for them to easily wind up and declare bankruptcy."

"Now, our position to the government remains, increments must be restore on April the 1st, 2023. There is absolutely non reason for the government to continue punishing public officers by withholding their increments."

"When the financial secretary came to us, he was clear that the government would have yielded approximately 17 million dollars from increment annually. For the past three years, that would have resulted in 51 million dollars in savings. Lo and behold, if it is that the government really needed to freeze increments and continue to freeze increments, then how in the world can this administration justify that in one year, apart from passing their budget, they went back to the house for 240 million dollars in supplementals. That does not show austerity and that does not show a government who is managing the finances of tis country prudently."

And though the joint unions have met with the prime minister, according to Flowers, it wasn't the discussion they had hoped it would be. He said the PM acted arrogantly, and feels as though the Briceno administration has a major issue with union workers.

Dean Flowers, President, PSU
"The prime minister invited the joint unions to a, quote unquote, open discussion, he didn't have an agenda. What exactly he wanted to speak about, only he knows. When we got to the table, we said to him, or somebody gave him our document which contained ten points that whether he wanted to discuss or not, we would have raised. I will tell you, there was never a discussion, he simply looked at the document and arrogantly said to us, no no no, and this and this and at one point in time, didn't even want us to have a discussion. So I wondered what is his definition of an open discussion."

"Let me take you back to 2020 when this administration came into power. The prime minister insulted public officers by stating that we were the only ones who had not made a sacrifice when in fact we were the only ones that had made a sacrifice at that point in time. To date, he and his entire cabinet have made absolutely no sacrifice. He and his CEO's have made none so he disrespected us in 2021 and I said it then and I'll say it now, this prime minister, this administration, seems to have an axe to grind with workers. My best explanation is, they came in with a vendetta, they came in with a vendetta against public sector workers and laborers across this country, period."

Elena Smith, President, BNTU
"The increments that were frozen in 2021 for example would be for the year you had worked previously so it's not that you were getting something free, you already worked for that and they took it away from you. Now, 2022, 2023, you are telling me that, I'm not even sure if you will get an increment, if you will pass your appraisal, but I will still take your increment away from you, so whether they know if you've passed or not, they have taken everybody's increment for two years now."

"So while you're telling me it's not automatic, you are doing an automatic deduction from all of us."

The PM had promised the unions to start discussion in January of 2023, and they say that has yet to happen.

Channel 7