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Retro payments on the line - Roberts urges unions to move away from contentious negotiating style

Published:Tuesday | March 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Danny Roberts

Danny Roberts, head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, has warned trade unions that the contentious style of negotiations with Government could be counterproductive.

He has cautioned the unions to be careful that the very workers for whom they are fighting are not left in a worse position at the end of the bargaining process than where they had started.

Roberts noted that if an agreement is not signed before the ending of the current financial year, the retroactive payments due to public-sector workers would be made in the 2019-2020 financial year.

"If the trends of the last four decades (are) to be our guide, we will continue along this contentions path to a point when things fizzle out and the unions end up accepting the Government's offer," he reasoned. "In the present circumstances, the workers would be deprived of their retroactive payment and the cycle of [adversarial talks] continues one year later. This is unhealthy and counter-productive for the workers and the country," Roberts warned, while speaking at the annual half-yearly meeting of the Jamaica Association of Education Officers last Friday.

He charged that the pattern of public-sector wage negotiations during the last 50 years has rested on power, threats, divisiveness and low-production performance.

"We need to change how we negotiate in the public sector, because there is a connection between how we bargain and why we are not listed among the top 10 richest Caribbean countries," Roberts asserted.