CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Public sector unions and associations in Saint Lucia were due to meet with prime minister and minister for finance Dr Kenny Anthony on Friday to continue discussions on the fiscal challenges facing the government.
At the meeting it was expected that representatives will discuss the decisions of the unions and associations on the proposals presented by the prime minister.
Despite public pronouncements made by union leaders, Anthony said he has not lost total faith in the consultation process. Speaking on his weekly radio program, the prime minister said that it is vital to continue to engage union and association leaders.
Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony
“I believe consensus is the best way forward,” he said. “While some suggested earlier that our minds were made up and it made no sense to talk, the government's actions have proved otherwise.”
Anthony disclosed government’s view that there should be shared sacrifice and that all public officers, irrespective of grade or rank, should be asked to consider wage cuts. However, at the commencement of deliberations with the unions, it was suggested that workers at the lowest grades should be exempt.
“We saw the merit in the argument that workers from Grades One, Two and Three should be protected. Contrary to what is being said in public, we took the suggestion into consideration and adjusted accordingly,” he said.
The prime minister emphasized that the problem the country faces is largely due to excessive expenditure on salaries and wages.
“The government cannot continue to compel the public at large to fix a problem which has been caused by our approach to wage negotiations in the past,” he said.
In an address to the nation on Tuesday, the prime minister thanked all who participated in the consultations and stated that the discussions were cordial and free from rancor.
Notwithstanding recent developments, Anthony said he is confident that talks will continue in the same spirit as obtained in the last three meetings, as he seeks consensus on responding to the fiscal challenges facing the island.