OBA labels MPs’ ‘pay cut’ as sleight of hand
A temporary pay cut to parliamentarians was branded “window dressing” yesterday because the take-home pay for legislators would remain unchanged.
The claim came after it was announced that MPs will have their salaries reduced for a year from July 1.
But the House of Assembly heard the cut would be offset by a break in their pension contributions.
Patrica Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow finance minister, said the move was an empty gesture.
She added: “We are doing this against the backdrop of significant suffering among our people.
“Some of them have zero money coming in, their jobs have been made redundant. Many of them, if they have any money at all, they are just making do.”
Ms Gordon-Pamplin added that the Government's recent reshuffle had added a junior minister to the Cabinet and that some backbenchers also got payment from their roles on government boards.
She said: “We are sitting here singing for our supper, trying to convince people that we are making some major sacrifice when all we are doing is shuffling the chairs on the Titanic.”
David Burt, the Premier, earlier told the House that the pay cut would save the Government just under $1 million.
Mr Burt said: “It's said that you cannot lead where you will not go and as leaders in this country all Honourable Members have been asked to do their part.
“Salaries of all Members and non-ministerial officers will be temporarily reduced by 12.5 per cent.
“In addition, the ministerial portion of salaries will be temporarily reduced by 15 per cent.”
The cuts will remain in force until June 30 next year. Mr Burt added that pension contributions — both the individual's contribution and the matching government payment — will also be suspended for a year.
But he said the public officers would be able to make voluntary contributions to “buy back” the lost year.
The Premier said the Government did not want to make “cuts and cuts and cuts”, but that changes to rebuild the island's economy were needed.
Mr Burt said: “We have an opportunity and a chance over the next few months to make radical changes and reform and, I would hope and expect, that all members will respect that these measures, these temporary changes, can only be temporary if we fix the challenges before us.
“We must recognise this situation is difficult, but unless we make sure that we are deliberate in effecting longstanding structural and fundamental change, we will be having these discussions for years to come.
“I don't wish to have this conversation next year.”
Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, said he supported the cuts, but feared economic problems would last for more than a year.
He added: “I believe that we are in some difficult times going forward and more is going to be needed.
“There are many businesses still closing down. Many of our charities are going to be taking a hard hit over the coming months.
“The priority right now is we have got to stimulate this economy and get people back to work so the economy can thrive at this time.”
Mr Cannonier added that some had suggested a bigger salary cut or a reduction in the number of MPs.
Michael Dunkley, an OBA backbencher, said the move was a pension cut rather than a pay cut and expressed concerns that it was “kicking the can down the road”.
He added: “What is the sustainability of this fund? Because if this pension fund is not able to pay out the benefits it has to, it is topped up by the Consolidated Fund.”