Mahabir-Wyatt: Expect pushback on SRC wage-hike proposals

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Activist and former senator Diana Mahabir-Wyatt – File photo by Roger Jacob

ACTIVIST and former senator Diana Mahabir-Wyatt expects a lot of pushback in the event that Cabinet opts to accept the wage-hike proposals in the 113th and 117th reports of the Salaries Review Commission (SRC), she told Newsday on Tuesday.

She said politically it was not a good time for such large increases, after many public workers recently had to accept just four per cent.

The reports, laid in the House of Representatives last Friday, recommended raising the Prime Minister’s monthly salary to $80,000 (from $59,000 now), the President’s to $74,000 (from $64,000) and the Opposition Leader’s to $47,000 (from $29,000).The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and the Opposition have urged  that the proposals should be rejected.

Mahabir-Wyatt said the proposals consisted of not just salary hikes but also generous allowances. Further, she said any salary hike would also raise the office-holder’s pension.

For the post of prime minister, on top of the proposed $80,000 there are perks like the free use of official residences, a $350,000 car loan facility, a $6,600 monthly transport allowance and $36,800 annual overseas travel grant plus a US$150 daily per diem, paid travel to Tobago and an entitlement to medical care.

Mahabir-Wyatt said, “You have to add it all up to see the benefits of being elected prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.”

She said it has not yet been determined whether Cabinet would accept or reject the SRC’s proposals, but said, “I have never known a Cabinet not to agree to an increase in its own emoluments. The chances are they will.

“But politically, this is not the best time to raise these salaries – it’s around 20 per cent – when everybody has agreed to raise salaries by about four per cent for the rest of the public service.”

She reckoned such a hike could face pushback.

“People are going to say, ‘If we are getting four per cent, why shouldn’t they get four per cent? Are we not as good as they are?'”

Newsday asked if the SRC might consider the job of PM to be extra special and especially deserving of reward, compared to say a nurse, teacher or firefighter.

Mahabir-Wyatt replied, “No, no. It is all service.”

She considered the effect of a wage-hike for a top office-holder.

“It is a certain amount of self-protection, because they want as much as they can get so it will affect their pension. They are all going to get enough pension to support your family and my family and two other families.”

Newsday asked if the PM should be paid in line with CEOs of state enterprises and private companies.

Mahabir-Wyatt said state-enterprise CEOs would be eyeing the PM’s salary level.

“Multinationals get paid in accordance with the market for multinationals, which is not determined here, but at their head office, which is wherever.”