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Postal agents considering protest action for benefits

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMTyrone Thompson
Postal agent Monica Brown outside the Caymanas Bay Postal Agency.

Still livid over the treatment they have been getting from the Government over the years, several postal agents are considering protest action.

This time, the postal agents are angry that they have not received a one-off payment that they say was promised to them by the Government more than 10 months ago.

James Francis, president of the United Union of Jamaica, which represents more than 250 postal agents, says his members are tired of the empty promises made to them by government regarding improvements in salary and working conditions.

"It's about the entire working conditions and the lack of promotion ..., in addition to this payment which was promised to the workers from August of last year to offset the wage freeze," said Francis as he warned that the postal agents have reached the tipping point.

Francis said the one-off payment was agreed upon during meetings involving representatives of the postal agents, minister with responsibility for the public service Horace Dalley, minister with responsibility for the postal service Phillip Paulwell and Post Master General Michael Gentles.

According to Francis, since this meeting, the money has not been paid to the postal agents as state officials argue whether they are contractors or employees.

"They are saying that postal agents are not eligible for benefits because they are contractors but they do the same work as a postal clerk, and they follow the dictates of the post master general just like a postal clerk. They also give them one week vacation with pay so how can they say they deserve some benefits but not others," argued Francis


Tight fiscal conditions


But Paulwell told our news team that the failure to make the payment was due to the tight fiscal conditions facing the country and not a signal that the State is unwilling to pay.

"That is not the case. We are in agreement that we want to do something for the postal agents, as they are in a difficult situation, but the post office really doesn't have the money, so I'm awaiting the final words from finance ministry and as soon as I get the go-ahead that the funds are available it will be paid," said Paulwell.

But that has not satisfied Francis.

"We have heard that many times before and our patience has been stretched thin. The minister has lost all credibility among the workers because how can he say the reason postal agents haven't been paid is because there is no money, yet, all other civil servants, including postal clerks, have received this money, that is ridiculous," charged Francis.