Sun | Apr 30, 2017

Public-sector wage talks for April 2015 onwards

Published:Tuesday | October 7, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Jones

The Government said it will initiate discussions on a new wage agreement with public-sector workers for the period after March 2015.

This revelation is contained in the latest letter of intent submitted to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by Jamaican authorities who said the negotiations are aimed at maintaining a prudent path of public-sector wages.

Public-sector workers have been under a wage freeze since 2011. The workers, in March 2013, agreed to forego wage increases for the next three years, which will mean five years of zero raise in their salaries.

Under the agreement with the IMF, Jamaica is to reduce its wage bill as a proportion of GDP by at least nine per cent by 2016. The Government said it will continue to reduce the size of the public sector over 2013-15 through the elimination of some posts and an attrition programme. It said that in order to ensure that the GOJ's overall wage ceiling is met, the filling of vacant positions will be constrained as needed.

Wages and salaries are expected to be 10 per cent of GDP, compared to 10.6 per cent of GDP in 2013-14. The Fiscal Policy Paper projects that this will be nine per cent of GDP in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 which is within the target. The projection for the wage bill is $176.2 billion in 2016-2017.

It is unclear whether the Government's projections for the wage bill take into account wage increases.

Meanwhile, Wayne Jones, deputy financial secretary in the Ministry of Finance, said public-sector modernisation will mean the loss of jobs in some areas. In a recent interview with The Gleaner, Jones argued that there will be some level of attrition, because "when you deploy technology, you have to separate or redeploy people".

SKILLS PLANNING

Jones, however, stressed that "it is not a one-to-one relationship that you put in a computer and five people who were doing something, you get rid of them".

"As part of the transitioning to a more effective public sector, we are engaging in skills planning where we look to see what skills set we have and where we can use them. Deployment and redeployment is going to be a critical part of how we transform the public sector," Jones said.

"I used to say when I was a trade union leader, that it is no secret that in the public sector we have people who are underutilised, poorly utilised and you also have those parts of the public sector where we have very severe and significant shortage," he added.

Jones further said that it is important that the State utilise the human resources in the public sector optimally.

"What we say to people is that where you are today is not necessarily where you will be tomorrow, and that includes transitioning out of the public sector," said Jones, while adding that work now in progress was aimed at preparing public-sector workers to take on employment elsewhere, including outside of the public sector.