Thu | Sep 21, 2023

80% of state workers on board with wage hike

Police still among noisy holdouts

Published:Thursday | December 23, 2021 | 12:12 AM
IS THIS A STICK-UP? Dr Nigel Clarke (second left), minister of finance and the public service, gestures during a discussion with Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association; Patsy Edwards-Henry, president of the Nurses Associ
IS THIS A STICK-UP? Dr Nigel Clarke (second left), minister of finance and the public service, gestures during a discussion with Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association; Patsy Edwards-Henry, president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica; and Bobby-Joe Campbell, president of the Jamaica Midwives Association, at the signing of heads of agreement for the acceptance of a four per cent salary hike.

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke says the Government is moving full speed ahead with the implementation of the public-sector compensation review despite not achieving full buy-in from union heads of its four per cent wage increase offer.

“We have made a commitment to begin implementation in April, and we will not make anything stop us from doing that,” Clarke commented on Wednesday.

He was speaking at the signing ceremony for the contract period 2021-2022 between the Government and trade unions.

The most recent signing means that 31 bargaining units have agreed to the four per cent increase. Clarke boasted of the pace of signings, suggesting that at no time in the recent past had the ministry managed to seal agreements with that many groups by a December timeline.

“The last time it took us about two years to get to 31,” he said.

Collectively, they represent approximately 80,000 workers, according to Clarke.

Among the latest group are the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association (JMDA) and the Nurses’ Association of Jamaica (NAJ).

The Jamaica Police Federation, which is currently locked in a court battle with the Government over sums it said are owed to rank-and-file members of the force from as far back as 2015, has not accepted the offer.

However, Clarke said too many people have invested in the process for it to be derailed by a few.

He said, so far, 80 per cent of public-sector workers have accepted the offer. That number is expected to increase shortly, he added.

“So we are good to go for the implementation review. What we need to do now is engage with the unions,” he said.

In the meantime, head of the NAJ, Patsy Edwards-Henry, said the group is not satisfied with the offer but noted that anticipation is high for a more substantial increase in the next financial year.

Edwards-Henry said the group has stood up to the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic in light of a buckling health sector and deserves corresponding compensation.

“We’re not 100 per cent happy with what is happening, with what we’re signing for, but we are looking beyond. We are looking for better days. We’re looking and hoping that as we sign today, it will sign the beginning of a new year for negotiation,” she said, noting that the NAJ is looking forward to what the compensation review will bring.

Head of the Jamaica Midwives Association, Bobby-Joe Campbell, too, said the offer was not ideal. She called for greater recognition of the group.

“The profession of midwifery, to me, seems like an afterthought ... . We are just as much as involved as other persons in the healthcare group,” said Campbell.

“Without us, our country is going to be in a very sad position. A dark state, I would want to call it,” she said.

JMDA President Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley said the lobby was grateful for the increase and is looking forward to the next round of negotiations.

kimone.francis@gleanerjm.com