Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
TRADE UNIONIST Danny Roberts has called for a full engagement of the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC), arguing that this is critical if Jamaica is to throw off the shackles of low productivity.
Roberts' call comes on the heels of labour unions agreeing to a three-year wage freeze with the Government. The freeze, which is an essential precondition in Jamaica being granted an extended-fund facility with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), means that public-sector workers will endure five years of zero increase, having not received a raise since 2010.
Yesterday, Roberts, who is head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, while lauding public-sector workers for agreeing to the freeze, said the Jamaica Productivity Centre "must be fully engaged in a comprehensive way if we are to unlock that long history of productivity decline which threatens our future".
"The question of productivity improvement must be done both in the public and private sector," Roberts said, arguing improving productivity would lead to increased economic growth, lowering of inflation rates and an improvement in the welfare and well-being of workers.
He argued that the productivity centre must invite itself into workplaces to examine productivity issues and to make suggestions on how to improve productivity.
"The centre has been doing some work, but we need to take on this with a greater degree of urgency," Roberts said.
CULTURAL REVOLUTION NEEDED
He also urged Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to lead in driving a cultural revolution which would see people embracing the need for improved productivity.
The JPC is a tripartite organisation comprising the Government, the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions and the Jamaica Employers' Federation.
The centre is charged with enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of the Jamaican economy and leading the process of transformation to a productivity-conscious culture.
A 2007 study undertaken by the JPC found that labour productivity declined by an average rate of 1.3 per cent yearly between 1973 and 2007. The study also found that for many of the country's trading partners and Caribbean neighbours, labour productivity has increased by 1.5 per cent yearly since 1972, and by over two per cent between 1997 and 2007.
"The Jamaican economy has been in a low-growth, low-productivity trap since the 1970s," the study found. It also said that for the period 1973 to 2007, real GDP grew by only 0.5 per cent per annum.
"This resulted in the standard of living of the average Jamaican remaining almost stagnant," the study said.