Public servants took to the streets in Castries on Friday in support of demands for higher wages that the government of Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony said it cannot afford.
The workers are seeking a six per cent wage hike with benefits or a nine per cent increase, but Anthony said the government could only afford a four per cent wage increase and warned of retrenchment within the public service if the increase is any higher.
Anthony said it was the opinion of government that the negotiations had reached an impasse and recommended that the issue be sent to arbitration, and on Friday the Trade Union Federation (TUF) met with the various affiliate groups to discuss the governments position.
However, the majority of members of the St. Lucia Teachers Union (STLU) and the Civil Service Association (CSA) again rejected government's offer and recommendation that the matter go before arbitration, and urged the unions to keep up the pressure on the government.
The workers have also agreed to stage protest action today and tomorrow.
TUF president Julian Monrose said the workers are upset that the government would not accept the proposals, including a six per cent wage hike, since most of the proposals did not involve a monetary cost.
In an address on Wednesday night, Anthony said the government cannot and will not go further than the four per cent increase in wages it has offered, coupled with agreed allowances.
For the government the option is clear: its either wage restraint or retrenchment. On the other hand, the members of the Trade Union Federation believe that the government can meet their demands without causing undue harm to the people of St. Lucia. I do not think so, Anthony said.