In recent weeks, public officers including members of the BVI Teachers Union have complained vocally about pay increments that government has owed them for years.

But Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley promised change on Feb. 21 in the House of Assembly.

Cabinet, he said, decided on Feb. 15 to begin issuing the outstanding increments to public officers.

“The government of the Virgin Islands has a duty, contractually and morally, to honour these payments, and I wish to give the assurance to all public officers and their families that we in the government are committed to ensuring they receive what is rightfully theirs as soon as possible,” he said.

He noted that the existing system of performance-based compensation was established in 1999 but said, “Over the years, there have been challenges of various kinds with keeping the payment of these increments current.”

Back payments

Some back payments have been made already, he said, adding that only five percent of public officers need to be paid in order for the government to catch up with payments through 2018.

The premier added that eligible officers should start to receive their 2018 and 2019 increments “immediately,” and should be “substantially” paid by the end of this year’s second quarter.

He said payments for 2020, 2021 and 2022 would be “substantially” completed by the third quarter.

“In cases where officers are at the top of their scales, they will be paid a one-off payment the equivalent of the incremental value,” he said. “Therefore, eligible public officers at the end of the entire processing period will receive the payment of two full increments and see a change in their salary levels by five incremental steps. I’m already in discussions with the financial secretary about another two increments next year to become more current in meeting our obligations.”

He also noted the financial challenges associated with the 2017 hurricanes, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

However, he added, “These events do not absolve the government of its obligation to pay increments.”