Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
STOPPING SHORT of saying a wage increase to the public sector was not on, Finance and Planning Minister Dr Peter Phillips declared yesterday that there were no resources in the Government's coffers at this time to accommodate a wage increase to public-sector workers.
"It cannot make sense to break into an empty shop, mek no sense to raid an empty cupboard. There is very little in the cupboard at this point in time," a blunt finance minister stated during his opening presentation in the 2012-2013 Budget Debate in Gordon House.
Phillips indicated that wage talks with the various public-sector groups could not continue for an extended period, noting that "we have to bring these negotiations to a conclusion in the shortest possible time".
No mood for freeze
A number of public-sector groups have already declared publicly that they were not in a mood to talk wage freeze for the period 2012-2014.
But Phillips said yesterday that "everyone should be aware that the public resources in this special period of economic challenge are severely limited".
However, he argued that the administration was not pushing a "take it or leave it" philosophy of industrial relations.
According to Phillips, the Government rejected the views of those who had called for massive layoffs in the public sector.
He said the Government would seek to grow the economy and attain a smaller public sector through rationalisation, efficiency gains and natural attrition.
The finance minister paid tribute to the unions representing public-sector workers, noting that they had proceeded in the wage talks discussions "with a sense of understanding".
A commitment has also been given by Phillips to continue the public-sector transformation exercise.