Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
The head of one of the country's largest trade union has said that Monday night's national broadcast by Prime Miniser Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips failed to shed light on the long-anticipated public-sector reforms.
Kavan Gayle, the president general of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, insisted that workers want to know the timelines and the details concerning when and how the reforms will be implemented.
"We want to know the strategies in terms of how you are going to achieve these objectives," Gayle told The Gleaner after the broadcast.
"This is critical because it will determine whether you get the buy-in and the support to help restore confidence," he added.
While Simpson Miller and Phillips did not go into details on the issue of wage restraint - one of the sticking points in the International Monetary Fund negotiations - the finance minister reiterated the government's plan to reduce the wage bill to nine per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) by 2016.
President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) Oneil Grant said this suggests that public-sector workers will be asked to 'hold strain' for five consecutive years.
Public-sector employees agreed to forego any wage increases for the 2010-2012 contract period and the government has already indicated that it cannot afford to pay an increase for the 2012-2014 period.
"Inflation is going to be a factor and the real wage of the worker is going to be reduced because of this," Grant reasoned.
He said this will also extend to workers in the private sector as financial institutions will be asked to give $17 billion per year in interest charges under the Jamaica Debt Exchange 2 announced by Phillips.
"It is going to be a tight situation for workers all around, and our hope is that the economy grows because our only way out is to grow the economy," the JCSA president said.