The following is an opinion piece by Shaina Smith-Archer.
Since watching the press conference with the Governor and Premier a couple of weeks ago where the question about payment of increments to the Police Service was raised, I have been waiting for the wider conversation. Payment of increments should be step 1 of the long OVERDUE salary review for the entire public service and include the Teaching Service and Civil Service. Overdue increments to ALL services need to be paid as soon as is reasonable this year to help alleviate the burden of increases to the cost of living. And the BVI Teachers Union and VI Civil Service Association need to add their voices to the Police Welfare Association on this matter and not be left behind.
While we are here, I’d like to recommend that the salary structure be overhaul and brought into the 21st century as part of the public sector transformation project by the Deputy Governor’s Office. Employees should be paid according to value they bring to the organisation. The pay scale is an injustice to our young professionals when they return home with degrees and work experience to be underpaid. That is why many do not return because when offered a job, the salary is laughable compared to market value and the cost of living. I will never understand why we are quick to pay an upfront bonus or inducement for an expatriate to come but don’t offer the same perks to Virgin Islanders to return home to where they have roots. This policy speaks volumes and nothing positive. Further to that, if we are not careful, our families will fall into the category of the “working poor” where they cannot make ends meet. That is worse than living pay check to pay check. Government being the largest single employer should make the salary review a top priority and not patchwork this any longer!
And for those worried about the government budget increasing, the payroll could be reduced if the Ministry of Finance created the long OVERDUE pension fund so that retirees’ pensions are not a part of the annual operating costs. And there is no rocket science involved. Two or three studies were completed over ten years ago and just like the social security fund works, the same needs to be set-up where both employee and employer (Gov’t) contribute. Persons will retire with a larger pension or can resign from the public service for other career opportunities and not lose their pension because they can withdraw what is vested and set up a new pension account with their next employer. How’s that for a win-win?
Let’s stop kicking these cans down the road and do what is fair and just for everyone and for us to have a better Virgin Islands to work and live in!