The Union of Teachers in St Vincent and the Grenadines have reached an agreement with the government relating to salary increases after years of negotiation.
A three-year salary increase was agreed upon at the last meeting according to President of the Teachers Union Oswald Robinson. The meeting agreed to a wage hike in 2023, 2024, and 2025.
“The discussion with the Ministry of Finance is not conclusive. That is just the beginning. I want to make that abundantly clear. Because we are yet to finalize the actual increases we want for each year. The union’s proposal is 10%. Now we are looking at a three-year [increase], we will revisit that 10%,” Robinson said.
Last week, the Ministry of Finance and other government officials met with the Teachers’ Union, Public Service Union, and Commercial and Technical Allied Workers Union to discuss a proposed salary increase.
At that meeting, it was also agreed that the Ralph Gonzalves-led government will set up a negotiating team to meet with the unions.
“We have also agreed to raise the tax threshold,” he said, adding that currently, people begin paying income tax once they make EC$20,000 annually. So, we want to move it up to about $22,000. And also, to reduce the income for persons in the higher income bracket — to reduce the tax on that income,” Robinson said.
The latest decision comes on the heels of a joint press statement by the Public Service Union and the Teachers Union saying they were proposing a salary increase of 10% over two years — 4% to be given retroactively from January 2022 and 6% from January 2023.
The unions also proposed in that joint letter, that the government raise the standard deduction for personal income tax from EC$20,000 to EC$25,000.
They also asked for a temporary reduction of VAT from 16% to 10% as well as a temporary reduction of import taxes on essential items, thereby lowering their cost for every individual who imports those items.
The union also proposed price control, saying that at least one government has capped the price of fuel as well as certain food commodities.
They called for a temporary suspension of the one percentage point increase on the customs service charge “among other things” and a reduction in income taxes, saying that the details on this would be submitted.
Speaking ahead of the talks, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said the unions’ proposal could cost the government around EC$145.6 million annually.