Dalley reports progress on wages; teachers slightly encouraged
Teachers are set to receive an increase in allowances for books, software and technology if their unions accept a proposal from Government which would also see the wage increase offered remaining at five per cent.
"We had some movement on that [allowance] and we are slightly encouraged and that is why we are heading back to the negotiating table on Wednesday and we hope the minister will again come to us with a better offer on the basic salary increase," Doran Dixon, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), told The Gleaner yesterday.
The Government has offered a three per cent increase in year one and three per cent in the second year.
However, the teachers have rejected the offer calling for 30 per cent increase over two years. Public-sector wages were last increased in fiscal year 2009-2010.
Horace Dalley, minister with responsibility for the public service, told The Gleaner yesterday that he was encouraged by the discussions that are taking place with unions representing public-sector workers and said his hope is to have the discussions concluded by the end of next month "if the spirit of cooperation continues".
"I think we have made substantial progress all around," Dalley told The Gleaner.
'Still not palatable'
Pointing to the meeting with the JTA yesterday, Dalley said that all except one item - the wage increase - have been agreed in a 30-point claim.
"Only one item is separating us in having an agreement. We have made substantial concessions on other items that they appreciate and understand," Dalley said.
Dixon though, asked whether the Government has given enough at the bargaining table to allow for the teachers to accept the five per cent increase, said "we have not seen that concession yet, so that five per cent is still not palatable".
The JTA boss, however, said he remains hopeful that a deal will be struck.
"It is a negotiation, and whenever people are at the table there is always the possibility that there is going to be a positive outcome. The fact that we have not shut the door and declared the negotiations at an end where both parties have irreconcilable differences, we remain hopeful," Dixon said.
Meanwhile, Dalley said progress has also been made in the discussions with the Jamaica - Confederation of Trade Unions and the police.
"The item that we are having difficulty with is the percentage of wage increase on the basic salary," Dalley said while noting, "I can't offer anything new. That is what we have to offer."
He added: "There is deadlock on the basic wage."
The Government is currently in negotiations with public-sector workers for a new wage contract, for the 2015-2017 contract period. But facing a target of nine per cent of GDP by next year, the Government has said it cannot offer more than a five per cent increase.
Some public-sector workers have been protesting to press their demand for increased wages, and the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file police officers, has threatened industrial action.
Dalley told The Gleaner that while the discussions have been robust, there is no indication of industrial action on the horizon.
"When we ended our meeting with the Confederation of Trade Unions, there was absolutely no threat of industrial action in the public sector and when we ended today with the JTA, there was no threat of industrial action. The police had 58 items and so far we have agreed to more than 29 ... we are still at the table," he said.
Under its agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Jamaica must reform its public sector to, among other things, reduce the public-sector wage bill to meet the nine per cent target, which has been deferred by a year, to next year.
The 2015-2016 wage bill is projected at $165.2 billion, which is 9.8 per cent of GDP.