WITU President Stuart Johnson.
PHILIPSBURG--Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) is calling on the Council of Ministers under the guidance of Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs to reconsider its letter dated January 27 titled “The Temporary National Ordinance COVID-19 cuts in employment conditions for public servants”.
According to a press release from WITU, the letter sent to all public servants outlines the lifting of the cost-cutting measures that affected the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter addressed vacation days, vacation pay, salary increments, indexing and overtime.
The letter sent out to all civil servants stated that the Temporary National Ordinance on COVID-19 cuts on employment conditions for public servants (Temporary LVO) had lapsed as of December 31, 2022, and noted current rights to secondary employment conditions as a result of the removal of the Temporary LVO.
It was noted that the normal number of vacation days per year will apply again as of 2023. The number of vacation days of all public servants who are remunerated according to scale 0 or higher was reduced by three days (or 24 hours) per year. This meant 1½ days fewer for the year 2020 and three days fewer for 2021 and 2022.
Regarding vacation pay, it stated that vacation pay for the period July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2020, was reduced by 2.0896 days, which was repaid in full by July 2021. As of July 1, 2020, no holiday pay was accrued. This provision was lifted by means of an amendment to the Temporary LVO with effect from July 1, 2021, after which the vacation pay for the year 2021-2022 was paid in full at the time, in June.
As for salary increments, from January 1 salary increments can again be awarded to those public servants who are eligible. As of January 1, 2021, no more salary increments were awarded.
From January 1, the restriction on indexing has been lifted. As of July 1, 2020, the salary scales could no longer be indexed, according to the letter. Also, from January 1 restrictions for overtime will no longer apply.
The letter noted that the expiration of the Temporary LVO did not take place retroactively. As a result, the implemented cuts over the period July 1, 2020, to December 31, 2022, cannot be reimbursed.
“This letter sent to all public servants is unacceptable, especially since no dialogue with unions has been sought,” said WITU President Stuart Johnson. “In the opinion of the WITU, there is a number of issues mentioned within the letter that must be still discussed and addressed. You simply cannot pretend that the salary increments, indexing, and the outstanding vacation allowance owed to civil servants will just vanish.”
Johnson added that he has called on colleague unions collectively and through the Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions (WICLU) to meet urgently to address this letter sent to civil servants.
WITU said it has had several general membership meetings with its membership, who have been expecting to see a number of concerns addressed properly by the government.
“This letter speaks volumes and it’s a tipping point to the WITU membership, which considers it unacceptable in these challenging times,” Johnson concluded.