Wed | Jul 24, 2024

‘IT MAKES NO SENSE!’

Placard-bearing protesters take to Emancipation Park in show of disgust over salary hike for politicians

Published:Saturday | May 20, 2023 | 1:03 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
Placard bearing demonstrators outside Emancipation Park in New Kingston yesterday protest this week’s announcement of a massive salary increase for members of the political directorate.
Placard bearing demonstrators outside Emancipation Park in New Kingston yesterday protest this week’s announcement of a massive salary increase for members of the political directorate.
Scores of persons yesterday turned up outside the Emancipation Park in New Kingston to protest against a pay hike for politicians announced by Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service, in Parliament on Tuesday.
Scores of persons yesterday turned up outside the Emancipation Park in New Kingston to protest against a pay hike for politicians announced by Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service, in Parliament on Tuesday.
Persons demonstrate outside Emancipation Park in New Kingston yesterday.
Persons demonstrate outside Emancipation Park in New Kingston yesterday.
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Members of the Church and youth groups yesterday raised placards in disgust at the main entrance to Emancipation Park in New Kingston, as part of a peaceful protest against the recent granting of massive wage increases to members of the political directorate.

Across the island there have been intense discussions and expressions of dissatisfaction since Tuesday, when Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service, revealed in the House of Representatives the level of increases, surpassing 200 per cent, that government ministers and other parliamentarians would be receiving over the next year.

For Clarke, as finance minister, his salary will move up by 232 per cent from $7.4 million in 2021 to $24.6 million as at April 1, 2024. He is now receiving $21.7 million, effective April 1, 2023.

Cabinet ministers are to receive a 230 per cent increase in salary up to April 1, 2024, with their pay moving from $6.9 million in 2021 to $22.9 million next year. As of April 1, 2023, Cabinet ministers will take home an annual salary of $20.2 million.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ salary will jump by 214 per cent, with his pay moving from $9.1 million in 2021 to $28.6 million on April 1, 2024. Effective April 1, 2023, the head of government will get $25.3 million annually.

The deputy prime minister’s salary has also surged by 221 per cent, moving from a little over $8 million in 2021 to $25.7 million effective April 1, 2024. As of April 1, 2023, the deputy prime minister is being paid $22.7 million per year.

These salary increases form part of the revised public-sector compensation structure.

The protesters, who were incensed over the increases, chose the location of their demonstration, given that the Redemption Song monument, which gazes into the skies, has been erected there. The monument is symbolic of Jamaica’s triumphant rise from the horrors of slavery, and serves as a reminder of the current fight working class Jamaicans, who believe they are underpaid, are similarly facing.

The words written on the placards were enough to resonate with several passersby who expressed their support.

Among the sentiments outlined on the placards was ‘Crumbs for teachers! 300% for political choppers!, Fix this Nigel! The people are discouraged!’, ‘Unethical move by the most fraudulent set of parliamentarians!!!’, and ‘Deliver us from evil powers! and Honk in support!’

There was only a handful of supporters from the People’s National Party (PNP), one of which was Emile Walker, a deacon from the Escarpment Road New Testament Church of God in Kingston, who said he believed the new pay packages for the politicians were unfair.

Christian protester Harry Walcott, minister of religion at Christian Life Fellowship Church in St Andrew, said he was very upset over move by politicians to hike their payments to the new amounts established.

“I think it is exorbitant and the timing is so so wrong! I think they should roll it [the increased amounts] back,” Walcott told The Gleaner.

When asked by how much he believed each parliamentarian’s pay should instead be increased, he however had no figure in mind.

“I don’t know, but something that is equitable. The teachers and the doctors and these [employed] people, they are having a hard time getting the packages that they want, so I am saying that the parliamentarians need to think again,” he said.

Meagan Thomas, a private bus operator and former Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus driver, said she was protesting because although she was not a government worker who would benefit from the revised public sector compensation structure, she wanted to see private sector workers being paid much better.

“I’m here this morning [because] a lot of employees that we have driven, they have no respect for us. The increase of pay, they don’t want to give it. They’re not paying any subsidies for us. We have to be doing that [ourselves]. Therefore, I am out here this morning asking that they give an increase to drivers, better pay [and] better rest time,” Thomas told The Gleaner.

She also said she was protesting because the politicians hiked their income, but gave teachers an unsatisfactory sum.

Trust eroded

Among the youth protesting was Patrick Anderson, a student of the University of Technology (UTech), who held a Jamaican flag in hand while declaring his position.

“I believe this increase is unfair. Just to drop this bomb on us as a nation, I feel real disappointed with our Government. Secondly, everything that happens from now on, every good act, I will view it with a bit of scepticism from my end. There is no more trust in our policymakers,” Anderson said.

Another youth, Kadeen Mitchell, also expressed her disgust at the Government.

“I’m not representing anyone. I’m not representing any organisation or anything [of the sort]. I’m just representing myself and the average Jamaican [because] it is not fair that civil servants and the average Jamaican person is struggling to buy gas, to feed their children, to go to work every day, and we’re being given a measly 10 [to] 15 per cent increase over the next three to four years, but the Government feels like after doing such mediocre work, not responding to our complaints, not fixing the things that they’ve complained about, but they can reward themselves with 200 to 300 per cent increase in their salaries,” Mitchell said.

“It makes no sense! I don’t know who is evaluating their work, but I don’t think they deserve that raise,” she said.

A passerby, who did not give his name, told The Gleaner that he did not believe the protest happening at Emancipation Park would make a difference.

“Di horse done gone through di gate! It nuh mek no sense, because you believe seh di politician dem a go roll back di money dem done set fi get? Dem naa do that, so dem coulda protest some more, it done set in stone,” he said.

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com