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Trade unions not opposed to job losses

Published:Thursday | April 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Staff Reporter

Trade Unionists have declared that while they are not opposed to job cuts, the Government should employ a strategic approach to this exercise in a bid to enhance productivity within the public sector .

Concerns have been mounting since the Government's agreement under the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to reduce the public-sector wage bill to nine per cent of GDP by the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Minister of Finance, Dr Peter Phillips has used several platforms to stress that the focus of the Government is not on job cuts but to ensure that it operates with optimum efficiency.

However, speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Tuesday, Helene Davis-Whyte, vice-president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, and member of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee, told journalists that though there needs to be improved productivity in the public sector, the Government should exercise caution.

"We are not philosophically opposed to job losses but if we look at the heads of agreement, there is a point which says, any job cuts should be in the context of the implementation of the Master Rationalisation Plan," Davis-Whyte declared.

"Therefore, if there are to be job losses, it must come as a result of initiatives to modernise and improve operations," she said.

The Public Sector Master Rationalisation Plan was tabled as a Green Paper in the House of Representatives in 2010, to invite public comment.

Since then, a number of organisations, public and private-sector institutions, as well as individuals, have submitted their recommendations and comments to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), a sub-committee of Parliament.

Focus on productivity

Oniel Grant, president of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), also cautioned policymakers to focus more on productivity.

"Even if we have less people, efficiency and productivity will not come overnight. The Government has had rounds of cuts which did not yield any benefit to the society because it was not a studied cut, it was just a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that existed," said Grant.

"We accept that there might be need for a reduction but if there is a cut, it must be a consequence of a studied approach to what the Government needs to be offering to the public sector," he said.

Similarly, Danny Roberts, trade unionist and head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, said the Government must be analytical in its approach.

"What needs to be done is an analysis looking at the jobs that you can do without and areas that can be transferred elsewhere. The focus should not be on cutting numbers," he charged.