A minimum wage increase for the public sector has not yet been signed off on, Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President Kimsley Ferguson said Saturday.
His comments follow Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ announcement on Friday that “the minimum wage that government pays its staff, that will be elevated”. Minnis made the revelation to reporters on the sidelines of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association annual general meeting at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island on Friday.
He said the private sector minimum wage cannot be increased without more consideration.
“The minimum wage thing is a part of our agreement, and I really don’t want to discuss that now because that’s still under negotiation,” said Ferguson.
“We proposed an increase in minimum wage and we are hopeful that we’re going to be able to receive what it is we proposed.
“We haven’t confirmed anything but it’s being negotiated.”
The BPSU negotiates on behalf of the general public service, including workers such as clerical staff and the treasury, however it does not include customs or immigration officers, teachers or doctors.
The union’s industrial agreement expired in 2018. Since then, the BPSU has reportedly proposed a $250 base salary increase per month in the first year, a lump sum payment of $2,500 in the second year and another $200 pay raise per month for its members in the third year. The Guardian understands that if a wage increase is implemented, the union expects that it would be backdated to 2018 and that it would cover a period of five years, depending on what the government agrees to.
Earlier this year, hundreds of members of the BPSU marched on Bay Street to the Cabinet office, demanding money they say is owed to them by the government.
Minnis also told reporters that workers in the public service would be receiving a $1,400 lump sum payment this month, which Ferguson confirmed that the union on Wednesday signed off on, but he noted that that was all the agreement was for.
“We signed off on a lump sum payment,” Ferguson clarified.
“It’s supposed to be for Christmas’ pay package. They (the government) just said December but persons are trying to ensure that public servants could get it to enjoy themselves for the holidays…
“But the only thing that we signed off on was the lump sum payment.”
The cost of living has been a public concern for some time in The Bahamas, with residents frequently expressing frustration over increased expenses and stagnant salaries. There has been added outrage over plans to add an additional fee to Bahamas Power and Light bills, which government has said would be used to refinance the company’s legacy debt.
According to data from the Department of Statistics, Bahamians are paying more for basic goods and services than they have over the past four years. It was also revealed that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose to 108.81 in September this year and inflation rose at its fastest pace in March and April this year by four percent, before settling by 1.8 percent in July at the start of the new fiscal year, where it stayed in September.
In August, Director of Labour John Pinder said the National Tripartite Council would make recommendations to the government on increasing the minimum wage before the end of the year.
When asked about wages that same month, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said that the government had not given any “detailed consideration” to increasing the country’s minimum wage. He said that while the government is aware of the public’s concerns over an increasing cost of living, that trend was “evening out”.
Reached for comment yesterday, Turnquest declined to confirm whether a wage increase is factored into the current year’s budget.