Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Gov't to start cutting jobs in August 2017

Published:Thursday | November 17, 2016 | 11:00 AMJovan Johnson
Davis-Whyte

People employed in human resources will be the first group of public sector employees whose jobs will be on the chopping block when the Andrew Holness administration implements aspects of the public sector transformation agenda.

This first stage of job cuts is scheduled to start in August 2017, according to the Government's Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP), which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published on Tuesday.

The country has been preparing for the rationalisation process since 2011, with the completion of the master rationalisation plan. The reforms later became a condition under the IMF deal signed in 2013 and remain under a three-year successor agreement approved last week.

SHARED SERVICES

As part of the reforms, Jamaica is to introduce shared corporate services for communications, human-resource management, and asset management. Legal services across Government are also to be centralised.

According to the MEFP, by May 30 next year, the Government must identify the positions that will be affected due to the reorganisation of human-resource management. By that date, too, a costing and schedule should have been worked out to facilitate the changes.

Although not a condition of the deal, the Government has committed to start implementing the changes three months later, in August.

In about 12 months' time, by November next year, the Government is to identify the positions that will be affected by the implementation of shared corporate services in public relations, communications, and internal audits. This is another structural benchmark.

No timeline was given for when those changes are to be implemented.

Approximately 100,000 people are employed in the public sector.

The precise number of positions to be affected in Government is to be determined by an action plan for public-sector transformation, which was submitted to the Cabinet in September.

The plan contains details on the merger, closure, divestment, and outsourcing of government functions, as well as the reduction in the number of public bodies.

Last month, trade unionist Lambert Brown argued in the Senate that the Government had a duty to share the document with trade unions.

The Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) said the disclosure of the timelines did not raise any red flags because it had already signed off on the 2011 master rationalisation plan.

"The real problem was that the outgoing administration (People's National Party) never moved to implement, and that is why we are where we are," JCTU president Helene Davis-Whyte said.

LOW-HANGING FRUIT

Analysts had argued that the urgency of implementing public sector reform played a role in Portia Simpson Miller calling the February general election almost one year earlier than was constitutionally due.

Davis-Whyte added: "The question of the shared corporate services was what was deemed to be a low-hanging fruit. When you looked at it, you had very small entities that probably had 10 or 20 members of staff and yet still you had an HR department. The view was, in those instances, you could gain more and would be more cost effective and affect those services shared across those departments."

According to Davis-Whyte, transformation for unions is about ensuring that the public sector can operate more efficiently and effectively. "If you just go in and it's just about cutting jobs in order to be able to meet some predetermined target, we have a problem."

The Government has committed to reducing the public sector wage bill to nine per cent of gross domestic product by financial year 2018-2019. Two previous deadlines were missed.

The IMF has said that Jamaica's wage bill, currently at 10 per cent of GDP, is high and "has been a chronic problem for many years that creates budgetary rigidities and limits the resources available for needed growth-enhancing capital spending".

Approximately $170 billion is budgeted for wages and salaries this fiscal year.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com