Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin yesterday criticized the government’s decision to award a lump sum payment to some public sector workers but not others, saying the Minnis administration was attempting to pull off “a Santa Claus effect” that backfired.
“Initially [the lump sum] was the product of a negotiation with the BPSU (Bahamas Public Services Union). So it was a benefit to that group, and then, of course, the politicians in the government sought to claim credit for it as if it was some largesse that was coming from the state,” Hanna-Martin said.
“And they expanded it because it includes other workers that are not BPSU bargaining groups. But once they started to go outside of that limited scope, I think that it created a lot of problems.”
She added, “But it’s more of the same. This administration, I think they were trying to bring in a Santa Claus effect. But it’s backfired because Santa Claus didn’t come down some chimneys and it makes people feel very badly who are doing the same work but not for the same pay actually.
“That’s the other problem. It’s a lot of anomalies.”
There has been some controversy surrounding Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ announcement on December 6 that public sector workers will receive a lump sum payment of $1,400 this month.
Minister of National Insurance and Public Service Brensil Rolle said that it was the government’s intention to pay all 22,000 public service employees a lump sum payment; however, he later confirmed that not all workers would be eligible to receive the payment after all.
He said the lump sum payments were to be paid to members of the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU); teachers; permanent employees who are paid weekly; members of the uniformed branches (police, customs, defense force, immigration, etc); and Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) staff, including doctors and nurses (does not include consultant doctors).
He also indicated who will not be paid: other government authorities and corporations; members of the judicial branch; contract workers hired outside the Public Service Commission; 52-week program employees; air traffic controllers; ministers and members of Parliament.
Rolle added that the exercise cost $30 million.
Hanna-Marin told The Nassau Guardian yesterday, “The problem that I have, that I’m encountering – because I’ve heard from a lot of people, under the radar some of their supporters, strong Free National Movement supporters who are similarly affected – and they just feel that it’s not fair.
“The concern I have – and I use that word ‘harmony’ – you’re creating division in this way and it’s not good.”
She added, “I think it would’ve been helpful too if they explained the rationale and the rhythm to who got what and who didn’t get what.
“Either say it’ll be this group, this group and this group, but there’s been no sort of integral rationale as to why that was done that way.”
However, Hanna-Martin also pointed to “anomalies” in hiring practices as being a “real underlying issue”.
“Underlying all of that are the anomalies in how people are hired,” she said. “And that’s the real issue.
“And both administrations have contributed to that anomaly and so that’s the problem.
“But I think that once you’ve started paying out in an anomalous way, which is what they’ve done, it doesn’t make sense to others who have been left out.
“It’s an anomaly. If they had stuck to the limited thing, you may have been able to argue it even though it would still be difficult.
“But once you started expanding it to other groupings that are not part of that bargaining unit, then the rationale went out the window.”
Hanna-Martin said that a social media post she made on the matter over the weekend was the result of an emotional voice note she received from a constituent who is a public service worker who did not receive the lump sum payment.
“It’s creating a bad feeling,” she commented, “particularly people who are committed and working hard in the public service. It’s creating a bad feeling.”
Calling it a “snafu of some kind”, PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell added yesterday that the PLP is “investigating the issue”.
The payments were made on Friday.