Previously, public service workers who earned below $50,000 per month in 2008 were given a $4,000 Tax Free Hardship Allowance. However, according to the GPSU, the government has since reneged on this agreement. “The action taken by the government was primarily political and not in the interest of public service employees,” the GPSU said in a statement on Friday.
The union noted that when the tax free hardship award was paid in 2008, the GPSU said it had believed that this was done in recognition of the economic difficulties being experienced by the particular group of employees and “was a sensitive gesture intended to permanently bring some form of relief.”
At the time, the union also believed that the hardship award was an effort being made by the government “to make right the short payment made to workers between 2002 and 2008.” During the 2002/2008 period, the GPSU explained, workers were not paid at the inflation rate annually and therefore would have received 17% less. It was also noted that the $4,000 hardship allowance only amounted to about 14% of the minimum public servant salary ($28,415). This is less than what should have been paid to employees if the government had paid increases consistent with the inflation rate and such increases would have been permanent to the pay bands.
The government’s decision to withdraw the allowance, the GPSU said, is seen as an attempt to relegate new entrants to the public service workforce to “ranks of the employed poor earning below the poverty line.” “If since 2008 the government had employed 1000 workers in the public service at the categories below the $50,000 pay band, it would have cost less than…$60 million dollars per a year.
This clearly would have demonstrated the affordability of maintaining a fair and equitable level of remuneration and lessen the impact of the challenging economic environment for new entrants in the public service,” the union noted.
The GPSU has since presented its case to Minister of Public Service Dr Jennifer Westford in a letter on May 6 (Thursday).