Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Union leaders have declared they expect the Portia Simpson Miller administration to bring something beneficial to the negotiating table to make up for its inability to accommodate a wage hike for public-sector workers as they enter into high-level talks today.
The administration is expected to formally place a no-wage-hike proposal on the table when minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Horace Dalley, meets with union leaders at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
Prominent union leaders have confirmed with The Gleaner that they have been approached informally with the no-wage-hike offer, but stressed that they have not communicated this to their membership as the information was not official. However, they expressed cautious optimism that a worthwhile agreement would be hammered out.
"Let us use the term 'wage restraint'. That does not mean that public-sector workers can't get anything," said president general of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, Kavan Gayle. "We anticipate that they are coming with a proposal of a wage restraint."
General secretary of the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers, Helene Davis White, disclosed that Dalley has communicated to the unions the Government's predicament and the possibility of an offer in response to the unions' claims.
"We have maintained that all of this has to be subjected to the collective bargaining process, and in that process, we expect and hope that the Government will be able to place on the table a position that the unions can consider," Davis White said.
GOV'T TO DECLARE POSITION
Said president of the National Workers' Union, Vincent Morrison: "We will have to hear from the Government as to its exact position, after which we will evaluate the position … . The democracy at the workplace will have to chip in, whereby we will have to consult with our delegates and our membership as to exactly what we are doing."
The Gleaner understands the Government has indicated it is unable to find in the region of $20 billion to accommodate salary increases, but is prepared to spend $1 billion on hammering out existing anomalies in the system from the post of permanent secretary down to the lowest level.