Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
A number of public-sector entities have been breaching the terms and conditions of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with trade unions representing workers, but when confronted about the improper removal of staff members, some claim innocence.
Former president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) Wayne Jones, who is now a deputy financial secretary in the Ministry of Finance (MOF), Planning and the Public Service, has confirmed that the ministry is aware of the breaches and has in the past advised entities to reinstate individuals.
"When we started centralised bargaining, commonly called the MOU, the unions requested and the Government agreed that during the period of restraint, any separation must flow from a genuine case of indiscretion on the part of an employee; and after due process, or from restructuring/reorganising," Jones told The Sunday Gleaner.
Continuing, he said: "The unions insisted that that must be there because of experiences where entities of the state, in a less than professional way, use the ambit of re-structuring/ reorganising to get rid of people. So it was a safeguard that was built in there and that condition has remained up to today."
The most recent heads of agreement, signed in March 2013 between the Government and the unions, makes it clear that "any restructuring or reorganisation that could result in staff separation must be reported to the Public Sector Monitoring Committee (PSMC) for adjudication," said Jones.
"We have been getting a number of such requests and we have been treating them on their merit. There are instances where entities have actually breached, and when that happens, that report goes to the monitoring committee and the monitoring committee intervenes and tries to resolve it," he said.
The Ministry of Finance accommodates the meetings of the committee and all such intended restructuring/ reorganisation "must go to the restructuring committee which is comprised of the unions and employees in the Ministry of Finance and Planning," said Jones.
While not describing the breaches as widespread, he expressed concern.
"It's not a large number. But what we have had are some entities even claiming innocence and therefore going about with restructuring and separating people. And usually it becomes known to the MOF either by the affected officer(s) or through their unions, and then an intervention is made and we find resolution. It is not that people cannot be separated during the period of the MOU, but it must be for genuine reasons," Jones said.
He noted that restructuring requests are made of the committee and in some instances, the entities have been told that they have not justified the requests for separation.
Jones heads the new Strategic Human Resource Management Division in the finance ministry. The unit is a merger of the Public Service Establishment Division in the ministry and the Corporate Management Development Division in the Cabinet Office.