Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips yesterday signalled to public-sector workers that the Government may not be able to grant wage increases for the new contract period.
The pronouncement comes months after several public-sector groups, amid the harsh economic conditions, agreed to forgo an increase for the 2010-2012 contract period.
But with discussions already under way for the 2012-2014 contract period, Phillips yesterday said "the reality of the available resources remains unchanged".
"This is going to be an area of great difficulty for them (public-sector workers), for us and indeed the entire country," the minister said at a weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston.
In a swift response, the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) said while it is cognisant of the harsh economic times, "we are also cognisant of the hardships our teachers face".
"Having faced inflation over an extended period of wage freeze, we are now eager to see how we can assist our members to at least get back to a decent standard of living," JTA President Clayton Hall told The Gleaner.
Confident in agreement
The JTA, which is still to secure a wage agreement for the 2010-2012 contract period, has already submitted its wage claim for the 2012-2014 period and Hall says he is confident an agreement can be hammered out.
"We are willing to discuss this hard time in relation to and with consideration for the hard times we all face," he insisted.
The Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), through its president Oneil Grant, said it took notice that the Government "has sent a signal that it cannot offer an increase".
"I don't want to send a signal as to what the workers are willing or not willing to accept at this time," Grant said.
"What I can say is that the room is still open for the collective bargaining process to hold sway," he added.
Grant said the JCSA is still finalising its wage claims for the thousands of civil servants it represents and urged the Government to allow the process to play out.