Pay raise is 'needed relief'

A 4 percent pay raise for Cayman Islands civil servants represents “needed relief” for thousands of government workers, according to the organization which represents them.

However, not all public sector employees in the statutory authorities and government-owned companies will be eligible to receive the pay hike when it takes effect on July 1, 2015, because their salaries and pay scales are controlled outside of central government.

“Anyone who got the 3.2 percent [pay raise in 2008 and again in 2010] should get this,” Cayman Islands Civil Service Association President James Watler said Friday.

That means approximately 3,500 central government employees, and those eligible in the public authorities, will get a 4 percent pay hike – their first since 2006.

Finance Minster Marco Archer said last week that the pay increase would cost the government an additional $5.5 million in the 2015/16 budget year.

In a letter to Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin, Mr. Watler noted that civil servants “humbly accept and appreciate” the increase.

“It is noted that the 4 percent will not come into effect until July 2015, nevertheless it will bring needed relief for many of our members who continue to struggle to make ends meet,” Mr. Watler wrote. “Our members have been plagued with the high cost of living and other economic challenges.”

Premier McLaughlin said last week that while consumer prices had risen some 11 percent since the last time civil servants got a pay raise in late 2006, government salaries had remained stagnant.

Mr. Watler said the situation was actually worse if the “cost of living” pay increases were separated from other pay increases based on merit.

“Let’s not get cost of living adjustments confused with a pay raise,” Mr. Watler said.

The civil service veteran noted that prior to 1999, government workers typically received salary increments on a relatively regular basis, according to measurements based on the consumer price index.

“If [CPI] went above a certain level, you got [a cost of living increase],” he said. “If it didn’t, you didn’t.”

In any case, routine cost of living hikes occurred at least once every two to three years, but that stopped during the 2000 decade.

Budget matters

The absence of proper pay scale adjustments over the past decade were one of the key reasons cited by Premier McLaughlin in this year’s push to reduce the overall size of the civil service.

Mr. McLaughlin said the size of the civil service payroll had made it extremely difficult for the government to give the type of cost of living adjustments described by Mr. Watler. In addition, short-term strategies such as reducing supply budgets and not filling vacancies had hampered the effectiveness of government workers, he said.

“The reality is that, if government is to significantly and permanently reduce its head count … government is going to have to hive off some of the services it currently provides to the private sector,” Mr. McLaughlin said earlier in the year. “We are examining what agencies and services could possibly be privatized. There are no sacred cows.”

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