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MPs pay cut to be debated today

Premier Paula Cox's proposal to cut legislators' salaries will be discussed in the House of Assembly today.

The pay cut, of five percent, is to take effect as of April 1 this year until March 31, 2013 or when the general election takes place, whichever is sooner.

Ms Cox had initially proposed that legislators take a 12.5 percent pay cut to be matched by a freeze in their pension contributions, and an additional five percent pay cut for a net five percent decrease in pay.

The two United Bermuda Party MPs accepted the proposal, but the One Bermuda Alliance insisted that Cabinet Ministers should take a higher pay cut and said they would instead donate five percent of their salaries to charity.

Ms Cox's proposal to the legislators came as she presented a similar proposal to Government workers.

Unions representing public sector workers had long insisted that politicians should take pay cuts and accepted the Premier's proposals, with certain conditions.

But the Police Association's position that they cannot legally accept the proposal, and the unions' various caveats, appears to have thrown the plan into disarray.

At a recent town hall meeting the Premier described her proposal to the public sector as a “non starter” saying it had not been accepted.

The resolution on legislators' pay cut tabled by the Premier on Wednesday deals strictly with a five percent pay cut.

Yesterday, Craig Cannonier said that his party will support the measure. But he repeated his party's position that Ministers should take a ten percent pay cut.

“Belt tightening is essential all around,” Mr Cannonier said.

“But the critical missing link in all this is the Government's failure to lead by example. We will argue in the strongest terms for Government ministers to lead the way with a ten percent pay cut something we have called for since the formation of the OBA.”

It is not clear whether the OBA's charitable contributions of five percent of their wages will continue.

“The OBA moved on its own five percent pay cut last month because of the need to set an example until, as we said last month, 'the Premier sorts out her course of action',” reads Mr Cannonier's statement yesterday.

Yesterday the United Bermuda Party said it will support the resolution.

Its interim leader Kim Swan said it was “encouraging” that the Premier had garnered support from her parliamentary colleagues.

“As the former Leader of the Opposition, I can fully understand the challenge that the Premier had to overcome and when asked by the Premier to join and do likewise whilst we continue to challenge the government on its management style we also understand the predicament the country is facing.

“Hence, my colleague Charlie Swan MP and I supported the pay cut arrangement proposed without attaching conditions,” Mr Swan said.

The effect of the Premier's resolution is to reduce the annual salary of most MPs to $53,222 from $56,023. Senators will get $28,848, down from $30,367.

Legislators who perform additional duties Ministers and party whips, for example get additional salaries and those, too, are being reduced by five percent.

Premier Cox's extra $168,069 on top of her parliamentary salary, will decrease to $159,665, leaving her a combined salary of $212,887.

Seven legislators are exempt from the resolution as tabled Louise Jackson, National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief, ruling party backbenchers Neletha Butterfield, Ashfield DeVent, Walter Lister, Alex Scott and Stanley Lowe.

The Royal Gazette understands that the MPs are being exempt because they are not expected to run in the next general election.

“The resolution excludes those who are slated to retire at the next election so that the pension they have earned is not prejudiced,” confirmed a Government spokesperson yesterday.

Of the seven, Mrs Jackson, Mr Scott and Mr Lister have officially declared that they are retiring from politics. Mr Lowe made that clear by not showing up at his branch nomination contest.

Mr DeVent, who represents Pembroke South West was not endorsed by the branch when candidate selection votes were held last year. The branch voted instead for Rolfe Commissiong.

Ms Butterfield suffered the same fate when, after three rounds of voting, Senator David Burt was approved as the branch's nomination for Pembroke West Central which she currently represents.

Minister Perinchief also lost the support of his constituency branch when Walton Brown outpolled him at the candidate selection contest last year.

Mr DeVent has indicated that he is not ruling out running as an independent.

One legislator who has indicated his exit from politics who is not on the exempted list is El James.

Mr James was not in the House of Assembly Chamber on Wednesday night when the bill was tabled and could not explain why the resolution as drafted fails to exempt him from the pay cut when contacted for comment yesterday.

“The discrepancy was pointed out to the Premier's press secretary but as of press time last night, the matter had not been clarified.

Premier Paula Cox is to lead a debate tonight on MPs pay cut.

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Published March 16, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated March 16, 2012 at 9:48 am)

MPs pay cut to be debated today

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