Jamaica public sector unions agree two-year wage freeze
(Jamaica Observer) Trade unions which represent public sector workers yesterday signed off on a wage freeze covering 2010/2012, but indicated that this could be the last wage freeze, at least, for the time being.
“Most of our members are not happy but we recognise that we all have to play a part,” vice-president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Helene Davis-Whyte, told Thursday’s signing ceremony at Jamaica House.
She said that in accepting the wage freeze, the public sector workers recognised that the role of the Government was to ensure that it contributes to economic growth, which will ensure a better standard of living for them, otherwise they will continually be negotiating salary improvements which are wiped out within the span of the agreement.
Davis-Whyte added that in furtherance of this principle, the trade union movement was looking at the concept of interest-based bargaining, a concept which will be reviewed by trade union leaders at a meeting in Kingston next week.
In the meantime, she urged the Government to recognise the mistakes of previous administrations, in terms of sustaining the trust and confidence of the workers and avoiding breaching agreements made in good faith. “While we are not joyous, we want to move on to 2012 and onwards,” she said.
Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips paid tribute to the unions and the workers for being “forthright, frank, professional, resolute, and patriotic” in the discussions leading up to the agreement. He said the agreement was a signal that the parties have found common ground during a period which has been testing the maturity of the nation’s democracy and its commitment to reducing its debt.
He said that the Government has held the line against suggestions that the test of commitment to fiscal prudence is the willingness to shed jobs.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, meanwhile, said that neither side could be happy with a wage freeze, but in the context of the state of the economy and the inability of the Government to do better, it was the result of a policy of consultation instead of confrontation and dialogue instead of monologue.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance, Horace Dalley said the signing of the agreement concluded several months of tough negotiations which began under the previous Government.
However, despite the fact that under the agreement public servants will not get pay increases for the period April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2012, some sectors will get specific benefits, including the reclassification of health sector employees, which has been approved by Cabinet but delayed by lack of funds to meet the cost. District constables are to be made pensionable as soon as the details are finalised and implementation of an Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) award to medical technologists.
Under the agreement, an assurance was given that there will be no redundancies outside of a rationalisation programme.