Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
O'Neil Grant, president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), has said the association's members are near breaking point in light of the increasing pressure brought on them by the domino effect of the sliding Jamaican dollar.
"It is unfair, and I will say it is unfair because the bottom line is that the households continue to bear the brunt of the burden, and their protection mechanism is so weak that any disruption in their lives causes serious dislocation," Grant said.
The JCSA president was speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week.
Grant said the current situation is "calling on us, as trade-union leaders, to keep the workers mindful that the sacrifice is something that will generate a reward for them at the end of it all".
Some workers, according to Grant, feel betrayed that despite the belt-tightening to which they have been subjected, many managers continue to treat them with contempt.
He explained: "They feel even further betrayed that despite what we are doing and despite the sacrifices made, it comes down to how you are treated and the respect that you get in the workplace."
Under a Social Partnership Agreement, the signatories agreed to work to, among other things, reduce energy cost, the crime rate, and strive for an adherence to the rule of law and an improvement in the economic environment.
In addition, the partners agreed to hard-line targets, such as the reduction in unemployment to 10 per cent by 2016, and an improvement in Jamaica's ranking on the Doing Business report index to 75 out of 185 countries, up from the current ranking of 90 out of 185 countries.
The partnership has also set a target of reducing murders to 25 per 100,000 by 2016, down from the current 38 per 100,000.
However, the workers who agreed to a wage freeze now find themselves having to pay higher coverage fees for health insurance, gasolene, and electricity, as companies cite devaluation of the Jamaican dollar as justification for upping their charges to meet and cover operational costs.
The labour representative said it was in recognition of the dire economic circumstances facing the country that workers agreed to hold strain, with the expectation that their sacrifices would, in the long run, be rewarded.
"They have made their sacrifices and are now patiently awaiting the outcome. The Government must deliver a reward for the sacrifices made. That's what they are patiently waiting for," he told the Editors' Forum.
More than 80 per cent of public-sector workers have agreed to forgo wage increases for the next three years, which will mean five years of zero raise in their salaries.