Gov’t puts massive hike in senators’ stipend on hold
The Government on Tuesday halted a 179 per cent increase in the stipend for senators, announcing that a new basis for determining adjustments is to be finalised.
The proposed increase in the stipend, which would have moved payments per sitting from $53,000 to $148,000, was outlined in a letter from the Clerk to the Houses of Parliament Valrie Curtis.
In a statement on Tuesday, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke said the increase will not be implemented.
He said that he has directed that the letter dated September 14, 2023, be rescinded.
Clarke said that the correspondence from the clerk followed from a Cabinet decision of 2008 that automatically indexed the stipend of the senators to the highest fee paid for service as a board director of a public body.
He said immediately prior to this 2008 decision, senators were being paid $1,000 per meeting and the highest public body board fee was $6,000 per meeting.
The highest board fee outlined was $74,000, according to Curtis’ letter, which was addressed to President of the Senate Tom Tavares-Finson. It was copied to Leader of Government Business Kamina Johnson Smith and Leader of Opposition Business Peter Bunting.
Clarke said that when public body board fees were last increased in 2019, Senate stipends were automatically adjusted as per the 2008 Cabinet decision and these took effect on April 1, 2020.
MEETING WITH SENATORS
“Shortly thereafter, as minister of finance and the public service, I met with a bipartisan group of senators to discuss this administration’s view of the unsustainability of this automatic peg and the likely unintended consequences,” he said.
“Among other things, I used the opportunity to outline the position of the administration that the senate stipend would remain unchanged, even with further upward adjustments of board fees, while a new basis for determining senate stipend adjustments is finalised,” he added.
The decision comes four months after the political directorate raked in huge salary increases, with compensation to members of parliament and Cabinet ministers surging past 200 per cent.
The Government has been hammered for months over the hike, which it said was important to incentivise performance.
On Tuesday, the Opposition objected to the announced increase for senators and called for a review.
Bunting said their concerns surround the size of the increase, its timing, and its “obvious insensitivity to the current national context”.
“We firmly believe that such a significant increase in stipend for Senators is neither justifiable nor appropriate, particularly at a time when crucial issues affecting essential public servants – such as police officers, healthcare workers, and teachers – remain unresolved,” Bunting said.