Fur flies over pay cut plan

Premier’s salary to drop 30 per cent

A bevy of questions and some heated
political debate followed a late-day announcement by Premier McKeeva Bush that Cayman Islands lawmakers would have their salaries
sharply reduced.

Mr. Bush announced Monday evening
that his own salary would be chopped by 30 per cent and that other members’ pay
would see a 20 per cent decrease.

The pay cut means that Premier
Bush, whose previous salary was $14,818 per month, will now make approximately
$10,372.60 per month.

Mr. Bush’s new salary is actually
less than what his Cabinet ministers will make when their pay drops by 20 per
cent. Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly’s monthly pay would drop to
$10,740, and Ministers Mike Adam, Rolston Anglin and Mark Scotland’s new
paycheques will be $10,479.20 per month.

Opposition Leader Kurt Tibbetts’
monthly pay will go from $10,541 to $8,432.80; Deputy Speaker and backbench MLA
Cline Glidden, Jr’s pay will be reduced from $10,033 per month to $8,426.40 per
month.

The remainder of the MLAs’ – both
backbench and opposition – will see their monthly pay reduced to either
$7,452.80 or $7,272 depending on their previous salaries.

Mr. Bush also said that elected
members would have to begin contributing 50 per cent of their monthly health
care premiums.

“Is the government going to bring a
motion (on the pay cut issue)?” asked North Side MLA Ezzard Miller.

“I have the authority to cut us,”
Premier Bush said, referring to elected members. He added that no motion would
be brought for debate.

Mr. Bush also stated he was
“suggesting” that members of the civil service take pay cuts of up to 5 per
cent for those making between $3,000 and $4,499 per month, up to 10 per cent
for those who make between $4,500 and $9,999 per month and up to 15 per cent
for those making $10,000 or more per month.

However, those proposals would
require changes, likely to both the Public Service Management Law and the
Public Management and Finance Law.

Legislators on both sides of the
aisle did not object to the reductions in pay for themselves.

“I believe all of us on this
(opposition) side believe that, as legislators, we need to set the example,”
Opposition MLA Alden McLaughlin said.

However, Mr. McLaughlin asked if
the Premier would still be retaining his personal driver, housekeeper and cook.

Mr. Bush denied that he has ever
retained a personal chef. However, he said he would keep his driver for
security reasons and would also retain his family’s housekeeper. Mr. Bush added
that he was already taking a 30 per cent pay cut – the largest of the salary
reductions.

Mr. Bush said the Premier’s post
must come with a “certain level” of service that he did not wish to give up for
fear of denigrating the office.

“You wouldn’t have to do any of
this (referring to pay cuts) if the member who asked the question hadn’t messed
the finances up,” he said, referring to Mr. McLaughlin.

Mr. Miller, the legislature’s only
independent member, said he did have concerns about the proposal to make
lawmakers contribute 50 per cent toward their health care costs.

“Are we going to have a choice of
who we insure ourselves with?” he asked.

“I believe we could be opening up a
can of worms with this issue. Once people must pay, they will demand a choice.
I’m quite happy to pay 50 per cent of my health insurance if I can choose where
myself and my family can go to receive health care.”

Proposed pay cuts to the public
service sector might also be combined with a deferral or suspension of pension
contributions from the government. Currently, the government pays a total of 12
per cent on top of a civil servant’s month salary toward a retirement savings
account.

Opposition Leader Mr. Tibbetts
questioned whether those civil servant pay cuts would come on top of a pension
suspension, and if that suspension would involve the full 12 per cent payment
or only the six per cent that government was responsible for.

Mr. Bush said those issues would be
discussed in meetings with chief officers and other department heads the
government had arranged for later this month.

“Another possible scenario is that
people take a week off…see what that saves us,” he said.

The Premier said January earnings
of government – typically the highest revenue earning month for the Cayman Islands public sector – did not meet expectations
and that more needed to be done to reduce civil service costs.

“Cuts must come,” Mr. Bush said.
“We cannot expect the country to run the way it is.”

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