See below statement issued by the Alliance for Change (AFC) on the Government’s recently announced seven per cent salary increase for public sector employees:
The seven percent across the board salary increase for public servants is unconscionable, designed to further divide our society, and totally out of sync with the economic reality of most public servants and low-income earners.
At a time when inflation has hit 14%, a 7% increase just does not cut it. Every household, every small business, the minibus operators, the water coconut vendor, the lady selling food, everyone has been affected by the rising cost of living.
Small businesses cannot adequately restock as they have seen sales decline while the cost of supplies to restock has increased. Prices have increased for most food items, the costs for construction materials have gone up, for some items it has doubled.
Persons who took out loans and mortgages using prices from four or six months ago now find that the loan is insufficient and they are forced to find the additional money or halt construction.
It is no wonder that salary increases are not being discussed with trade unions. The government is aware that the workers’ representatives would not accept increases less than the inflation rate so they have forced a paltry 7% down the throat of workers. No consideration for the increased cost of living and suffering of so many workers.
By making the 7% increase across-the-board, the government will allow for public servants at the higher end of the pay scale to receive more on their salaries while a pittance is added to the low-income worker.
For example, a public servant earning $400,000 will receive an additional $28,000 while the worker taking home minimum wage will have $4,900 before tax, added to their salary. This is clearly designed to drive a further divide between the haves and the have nots in our society, to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Even the worker earning $140,000 will see less than $10,000 added to their salary.
To add a mere 7% to the salary of workers and to take taxes out of that increase is heartless. In this economic crisis, it is the most vulnerable, those with low earnings, that need the most assistance. A $4,900 increase, when taxes are deducted would not even cover the current cost for a 20-pound cylinder of cooking gas.
There is no money for another packet of milk or a bottle of oil. No money left over there to buy sweets for the children. We need and must do more for low-income earners; a 14 percent increase will barely offset the increased cost of goods, it will barely cover increased inflation.
The AFC calls for an adjustment to the income tax threshold that will allow for low-income workers to have more disposable income, a total review of the income tax rate for all workers, and for the minimum wage to be raised.
Lest we forget, under the coalition government, the minimum wage was increased by 26% in 2015; 10% in 2016; 9% in 2017; 8% in 2018, and 9% in 2019. In under five years, the minimum wage had risen from $39,540 to $70,000.
It was a feature of the coalition government for the lower-paid public servants to receive a higher percentage increase than those at the higher end of the pay scale.