By Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter
THE COUNCIL of Presidents of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) yesterday declared support of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed Monday between the Government and the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), allowing for a hold on the salaries of public sector workers for a period of two years.
In a release, the Council praised the union members "for their mature approach in seeking to arrive at a solution which is in the best interest of their constituents, and more significantly, for the country." The PSOJ noted that in light of the economic problems being encountered by the country, "this MoU demonstrates that consensus around a set of initiatives ...can be achieved through dialogue and co-operation."
Among the stipulations of the MoU, public sector employees will see a three per cent cap on any increases in their wages during the period which lasts until 2006.
The Gleaner contacted various private sector companies to ascertain whether they would be implementing similar measures. Some were yet to discuss the matter with their workers.
Beverley Lopez, PSOJ president, said the organisation was yet to discuss the cap and would not do so until some time in March as the organisation's February meeting had already passed.
Her 'too early to tell' sentiments were shared by Rion Hall, general manager of Human Resources at the Bank of Nova Scotia.
"We have not even looked at that issue yet, so I can't give you any indication of what our actions might be. I am not even sure if many persons know that this (the three per cent cap) was a part of the memorandum ...," he said.
Doreen Frankson, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association and managing director of Edgechem, was definitive as to a mode of action. She said Edgechem would adhere to the three per cent cap. This, she said, was "in the nation's best interest. "If the public sector is asked to do this, then the private sector companies should show the same kind of restraint," she added.
Andre Latty, human resource manager of Kraft Foods, also gave some insight into his company's intentions. He said that Kraft had made projections for increases over three per cent but would not disclose how much higher those projections would be. He assured, however, that the figure would be below the inflation rate which stands at a little under 14 per cent.
But not all executives were agog over the idea of wage caps in their sectors. One member of the telecommunications sector, Gregg Dalmar, vice-president of operations at Avoxi Communications, was not buying into the signed cap.
"I don't see that happening in the telecommunications sector. I don't see the benefit of it. The telecoms sector is one with the most growth and we should be looking to increase not decrease wages. If we are to get telecommunications to first world standard, we need to pay top dollar for top people," he said.
The signing of the historic MoU came while the private sector has been attempting to finalise its own package of initiatives in the PSOJ-led "Partnership for Progress" plan which first came to national attention late last year. This memorandum is even more anticipated in light of Monday's signing between Government and the JCTU.
Based on an Irish model which involved agreement between employers, trade unions, farming interests and government on wage levels, Partnership for Progress is an alliance of representatives from the private sector, the trade unions, academia, civil society, Government and the Opposition. It is created to formulate a plan to adjust the country's fiscal accounts.