Categorized | National News

Outcry Over Proposed MPs Salary

Leading unionists may not have a problem with parliamentarians getting a salary increase, but considering the fiscal constraints the country is still wrestling and the outstanding needs of their members, “now is not the time.”

In an interview with the Bahama Journal yesterday, Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President, John Pinder said it is the wrong time to do so.

In fact, he said the government has a lot to pay out before it can even consider making good on this recommendation.

“Right now, I have a number of members who the government owes hazard pay to. The government is also withholding a lot of promotions because they don’t have the funds ready, increments are being withheld and persons are owed reimbursements. The government has a lot of expenses on its hand right now and so for members of Parliament to suggest that this is the time to get an increase, I think the timing is very poor,” he said.

Aside from the money owed to union members, Mr. Pinder went on to point out that some of his members have for years worked in adverse conditions; another issue the government must address.

“I have a number of members who work in condemned buildings like the Rodney Bain building, the General Post Office, he added

Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President, Belinda Wilson is equally concerned about what parliamentarians are recommending.

“The union agrees that parliamentarians should earn substantial salaries, enjoy benefits and yes, there is a need for a new parliamentary complex. However, travel, constituency, duty allowances and salary increases will be granted to them by a stroke of a pen,” she said.

“What is the priority – people or self? This should not take priority over the small man, teachers and workers of this country who are suffering. Some of whom, are losing (and have lost) their homes; many are unable to pay their light bills, others are unable to provide food and basic necessities for their children and their families although they are working hard every day.”

All things considered, the BUT is calling on the government to cough up the $5 million owed to “all” teachers.

The recommendations were part of a seven page report that a Select House Committee compiled.

The government has however given no timeline in terms of when the salary increases should take place.

There is also no word on when a final report will be submitted on the seven page recommendations.

However, State Minister of Finance, Michael Halkitis stressed that the suggestion to increase the wages of parliamentarians is simply that any review be done on the same principle as judges and other judicial officers.

According to Dr. Bernard Nottage, who served as Chair of the seven-member Committee, this review would be done on a regular basis – every three years – by an independent body.

It is also suggested that this principle be established in law.

Minister Halkitis further explained that while a new parliamentary complex is needed, it may not happen in the upcoming 2014/4015 budget period.

“There’s no way you can get a new building in this term anyhow because you have to identify land, do drawings, construction all those things,” he said.

“It’s just to sensitise the public that this is where your national business is being done.. It is a national symbol. We need to address this issue at some point.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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