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PPP possible salary increase refusal revives PNCR’s 2006 wage increase rejection

by Zena Henry

While the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is still to discuss whether their Members of Parliament (MP) will accept pay increases from government’s proposed salary hikes, the possible rejection has revived the 2006 wage increase rejection of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR).

The A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government is facing stiff criticism for proposed increases, some believed to be 100 percent.

The PPP in a statement at the weekend said it was appalled that the government would increase their pay but not fulfill certain percent increases for public servants and maintain certain public assistance programmes.

However, the now opposition PPP might themselves come in for some finger pointing as criticism against them in 2006 did not prevent them from raising ministers and MP’s pay then. In fact, a Motion by the then PNCR opposition in the 2006 National Assembly sought to nullify an order that demanded members of the Assembly to agree with the then increases in writing, or face the penalty of not obtaining “any increase at all”.

The increase came under then president Bharrat Jagdeo.

PNCR leader, Robert Corbin had called the Order “unprecedented” at the time and said it was “deliberately crafted by the PPP/C Administration because of the PNCR’s expressed objections to the level of increases, particularly in the context of the percentage of increase given to public employees and teachers by the Government.”

In the letter to Jagdeo, Corbin stated among other reasons that; “Any increase in emoluments of Ministers and MPs should take cognizance of the overall economic situation of the country and in particular the percentage increase recently paid to Public Servants and other categories of public employees.

They said too that, “The proposed increase for MPs, which is in excess of one hundred percent, is unconscionable having regard to the paltry 5% recently paid to Public Servants.”

These are some of the same reasons why the party is currently objecting to the government’s pay increase, except that in 2006 the opposition argued that they were being silenced for disagreeing with the increase.

“Consequently, to place a condition of agreement under penalty of no increases at all is to create a dangerous precedent and is a despicable attempt by the PPP/C Administration to silence members who may hold a different view about the level of increases to be paid.

MPs should be free to express their opinions about any proposed increases in their remuneration in an atmosphere free from threats. They should also be free to determine how they will deal with any remuneration eventually paid, including donating any sum to a charity of their choice.”

Most government ministers receive just over $579,000 after deductions.

PPP’s General Secretary Clement Rohee said Monday July 3 that the party, while in power, was satisfied with their pay and so should the new government.

However the government is saying that the small pay cannot cut it for the ministers. It was hinted that it would be better to give meaningful salaries to the agency heads rathr than them finding other ways to pay themselves, “like the former administration did”.

Minister of Finance Winston Jordan will give full details of the increases on Monday 10 when the 2015 budget is read in the National Assembly. It will be the sixth sitting that would possibly see the opposition taking up their seats following months of bitterness after losing the 2015 General Elections which cut off some 23 years in government.