Councillors anxiously waiting to hear proposed new salaries under compensation review
The Association of Local Government Authorities of Jamaica (ALGAJ) President Winston Maragh has revealed that his organisation is yet to begin negotiations with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to review the compensation structure for...
The Association of Local Government Authorities of Jamaica (ALGAJ) President Winston Maragh has revealed that his organisation is yet to begin negotiations with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to review the compensation structure for the island’s 14 mayors and 228 councillors despite growing anxiety.
“We did write him (Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke) with some matters that we would like to discuss, but we have not sat down to start any negotiation,” Maragh told The Gleaner on Tuesday, adding that the letter was dispatched to the ministry some time last year.
Maragh said that he has no issue waiting for the negotiations to start because “whatever it is, it is going to be retroactive to April 2022”.
However, he admitted that some councillors – “especially the opposition councillors” – are anxious to hear how much the increases in salaries are going to be.
Maragh, who is the mayor of May Pen in Clarendon, asserted that Clarke had stated that politicians would be last on the list for the restructuring exercise, and so his association was “patiently awaiting him to finish the negotiations with the civil service”.
The ALGAJ president said that chief among the issues is for their salaries to still be tied to those of the staff at the municipal corporation.
At a meeting of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) on Tuesday, Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams noted that the councillors want to be updated on the process.
“I’m not saying pay your councillors large salaries while you can’t do the same for other people within the public sector. I wouldn’t say that. We’re always very careful in that we ensure that the public sector workers are dealt with first, and being that we’re leaders, we’re always prepared to wait and see,” he said.
Williams and other councillors chided the ALGAJ for not providing timely and comprehensive reports to the KSAMC.
Andrew Swaby, councillor of the Vineyard Town division, told The Gleaner that he was unaware of what was happening with the negotiation process.
“We are no different from the workers across Jamaica. The salary is an issue, and we would love to see an improvement in salary, mindful that we knew what we were getting into and that the public sector [doesn’t] pay like the private sector, but we haven’t seen an increase for how many years and inflation [is] going up. Obviously, we must be concerned,” he said.
Mayor Williams took issue with what he said was a general view that councillors are well off financially.
“Councillors live on a regular salary, far below the salaries of most persons in their levels of expertise and qualifications,” he said.
He told The Gleaner that a mayor is currently paid $3 million per year while a councillor gets a salary of little under $2 million annually, with travel and vehicle upkeep allowances.
While advocating for the fair treatment of politicians, Williams lamented that too often, councillors are forced to dip into their own pockets to provide for the needs of their divisions.
“We are not idlers. We do our work, and we do our work within the resources we get. Our councillors are in touch with the various communities they represent. They are always working. They are taking on the issues, listening, helping when they can, and they are up late into the mornings trying to resolve issues,” he said.
Noting that the job is very demanding, Williams also dismissed suggestions that the councillor’s earnings can be boosted if they take on an additional nine-to-five job.
“It’s easy for people to say on paper that you’re a councillor. You can have other jobs and still be a councillor. The demands placed on local government these days and councillors, it’s very difficult. You can’t have a regular job because you wouldn’t get the time on a regular job to go and attend to all the issues in your division,” the mayor said, noting that the post is not only open to business people but anyone with the desire and ability to serve.
Meanwhile, Rae Town division Councillor Rosalie Hamilton wants a public-education campaign to change how councillors and their roles are perceived by citizens.
“I was saying to the mayor (Williams) that they need to have public education on the role of a councillor and the additional duties. I think it will eliminate some of the sentiments that are out there in the public domain about councillors because we are hard workers. We are life-changers. We do just about everything to enhance people’s lives and communities,” she said.