Protesters stage lunch hour demonstration at finance ministry
“GET UP, stand up,” the popular Bob Marley and The Wailers song blared from speakers of a town crier, as protesters waved banners during yesterday’s lunch hour, as they demanded a roll back of salary for the political directorate.
The large group, made up mostly of representatives of Advocates Network, were out with their placards along the roadway and facing the Ministry of Finance and Public Service at Heroes’ Circle.
Robert Stephens, clad in an Advocates Network T-shirt, told The Gleaner that the country is losing valuable professionals, such as nurses and teachers. To change this trend, Stephens remains adamant Jamaica must take care of the middle and lower class or the country will be in trouble.
“What has to happen is that the politicians need to rethink their position with respect to granting themselves 200-per-cent-plus increases and giving the bottom no more than 20 per cent,” Stephens said during the protest.
A civil servant among the protesters, Karen Leslie, said her issue was not about the increase, but the percentage.
“If I can only get 20 per cent, why can you get 200? Why can’t you get 20 or let’s say 30 or 40? Why do I have to take 20 and you give yourself 200? It’s about the percentage, it’s not about the dollar,” Leslie said.
Doesn’t make sense
Former media executive, Kay Osborne, was also among the protesters and told The Gleaner that she has never heard of anybody paying any company retroactive pay as an incentive for future work.
“What the government is doing, they are giving themselves retroactive pay and claiming it is to attract future people. That is contradictory, it doesn’t make any sense,” Osborne told The Gleaner as she held a placard in her hand.
She has worked in corporations for the past 50 years and said the increase by the government should be stopped and is simply “not right”.
Osborne said she is not affiliated with any political party or movement, but wants the best for Jamaica.
“I came back to contribute to my country, that is why I did the work that I did when I came back, even though I came back retired. And now we’re seeing this! I am here as an individual who is interested in this country’s development,” she said.
Osborne said it cannot be that Jamaica is under investing in education and then overpaying the politicians.
“To the extent that they go in our money and just take it out because they can. It’s just not right,” Osborne told The Gleaner.
As the gathering grew, motorists honked their horns, seemingly in solidarity with their countrymen and countrywomen protesting on the roadside.
Their placards bore messages such as, “Jamaica 60 years, not independent”, “People in poverty while politicians pad their pockets”, “Repeal the salary hikes” and “Too greedy, 200+ % for you 20% for others, no!! No!! No!!”, among others.
This is the latest protest action since the announcement of massive salary increases for the political directorate was made in Parliament last Tuesday by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke.
Clarke announced the new salary scales under the public sector compensation review, which led to a national uproar as the increases surged past 200 per cent.
Since the backlash, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said he will not accept his salary increase.
Opposition leader Mark Golding, however, says he will only accept 20 per cent and donate the remaining 80 per cent to a worthy cause.