Public-sector wage talks under way
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Unions representing public-sector workers last week met with Horace Dalley, the minister with responsibility for the public service, requesting clarity on where the economy is heading.
The questions were raised as the unions and the government formally commenced discussions for a new wage agreement at the finance ministry in Kingston.
The wage restraint agreement with civil servants -which has frozen wages since March 2012 - expires in March 2015, and Oneil Grant, president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), is adamant that the workers will have to get increased salaries.
"We are not contemplating a wage freeze. That is not the purpose of our negotiations and I can safely say that I don't think the parties have the issue of a wage freeze at the forefront," Grant told The Gleaner yesterday.
The JCSA president said the meeting with Dalley was necessary as the latest fiscal policy paper, which sets out the performance of the economy as well as medium-term projections, did not include some critical information.
"We want to ensure that the discussions that we have not only cover the one year, but would go right up to the end of the next contract period," Grant said.
He said the information sought directly related to "the state of the economy and the trajectory the economy is going in".
"Our contract period is going to go up to the period 2017. We would want whatever information we are getting, the negotiators would be in a position to ensure that when we are negotiating we are negotiating from a position of knowledge and negotiating on fact and not assumption,' Grant said.
Jamaica's economic programme, which has the stamp of approval of the International Monetary Fund, includes modernising the public sector to help reduce the wage bill from 10 per cent of GDP this fiscal year to nine per cent of GDP in the coming budget.
The Government said it aims to meet the wage bill target for 2015-16 through continued wage restraint in the context of the upcoming wage negotiations and reforms to modernise the public sector.
Devon Rowe, the financial secretary, told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that "we are about to engage in a wage negotiation with the unions and the unions have already agreed to the objectives of the economic programme and trying to keep wages within nine per cent of GDP".
"We anticipate that there is creativity that will be executed in those discussions to allow us to attain the nine per cent of GDP by 2015-2016," Rowe said.