Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan is expressing his surprise at what he refers to as the ‘continuous aggressive confrontational approach’ by the General Secretary of the Public Service Union Thomas Letang towards the Government regarding payment of salaries to public officers.
In it’s latest round of negotiations with the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), the government has offered a wage freeze for the 2015-2018 triennium, something the union has refused to accept.
The Union instead is demanding that the government finds the money to pay the salary increases as well as to facilitate improved working conditions for public officers.
Letang has gone as far as telling the Government to use the money from the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme to pay public officers’ salaries.
But Astaphan told Kairi FM’s Heng Program on Wednesday that Letang seems to have forgotten what happened in the early 2000’s when the Government had to take a decision under the restructured program that they had with the International Monetary Fund.
“And you will remember that when the Government pass the legislation about the temporary reduction of salary and the other measures, the Union hired a Senior Counsel from Trinidad, Ramesh Maharaj QC, fought the matter in court, the claimant was then the Vice President or the President Miss Sonia Williams, and both the High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled that Government’s obligation to pay civil servants is based on the ability of Government to pay,” Astaphan said.
Astaphan stated that as a result of this ruling neither the Union nor the court can compel a Government to pay monies under a collective agreement or arrangement with public servants if it cannot afford to pay it.
Astaphan also weighed in on Letang’s statements that the Union is willing to meet with the government to discuss various issues, particularly salary negotiations, but it must be done under certain conditions.
“What Mr Letang does not want is for the Government to provide facts in his presence about the state of the country’s recurrent expenditure and revenues because he must know that that information is not what he wants to hear,” Astaphan stated.
The Senior Counsel is also of the view that Letang is twisting it to suggest that if he goes to the meeting there will be no further negotiations.
But according to Astaphan that’s the furthest thing from the truth.