Junior doctors, teachers accept revised wage offers
Teachers and junior doctors voted on Sunday to accept updated wage offers from the Government, a quantum leap for the Holness administration, which last week faced four days of protests from members of the powerful Jamaica Teachers’ Association (...
Teachers and junior doctors voted on Sunday to accept updated wage offers from the Government, a quantum leap for the Holness administration, which last week faced four days of protests from members of the powerful Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA).
The votes took place online on Sunday with more than 90 per cent of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) members in attendance accepting the deal and at least 80 per cent of the JTA delegates voting yes.
“Today’s overwhelmingly positive endorsement of the public sector compensation restructuring reform by teachers and doctors is great news for Jamaica,” Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke told The Gleaner last night.
“This reform is very complex; it involves significant change and, as such, today’s results ultimately reflect the enduring value of Jamaica’s traditions of social dialogue,” he added.
All eyes are now on the police unions, which represent the largest group left to sign on to the restructure exercise.
JMDA President Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley said the revised offer from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service last week addressed “some sticking points that were causing an issue” throughout the negotiations.
“Our doctors were going to be compensated differently, whether they were in a fixed-term contract or in a post. With this offer, our doctors who are on fixed-term contracts will move over into a post come April 1, 2023 and then all of our doctors will be compensated at the same rate come April 1, 2023 ... ,” she said.
Fitz-Henley added: “All of our doctors will be at the same, equal footing and this is something that previous executives had been fighting for for decades. So, not only have we been able to secure a post for every doctor, but also protect the doctors in the future to ensure that they, too, have to be hired into a post.”
During his opening of the Budget Debate last week, Clarke announced that the Government would move to transition thousands of public sector workers currently on contracts to permanent employment. He said that of the approximately 1,754 doctors in the system, only 509 were permanently employed.
Teachers protested for four days last week, arguing that the Government’s proposal at the time did not acknowledge their skills and qualifications, especially for trained graduates who make up the bulk of the teaching profession of more than 24,000 persons.
Last Wednesday, the union rejected an offer and mandated further protests. But, the union later asked members to return to work as negotiations resumed.
The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service submitted a revised offer on Friday, which sees the pre-tax annual basic salary of trained graduates moved to $3 million on April 1, 2024.
The initial proposal had members of that category moving up to $2.95 million in 2024.
The three-year deal is effective from April 1, 2022.
It includes a guaranteed minimum rate of increase of 20 per cent in basic salary after tax deductions. Most allowances have been collapsed into the taxable monthly pay.
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke told the House of Representatives last Tuesday that if $12 billion set aside for teachers for year one of the three-year deal was not paid this month, it will take several years to do so, starting in 2024.
He said that the amount exceeded the total increase that went to all public-sector workers (110,000) in eight of the last 10 years.
“I hope, for the sake of our country, that partisan politics is not weaving its way in. And I say that not because of speculation, but because of things that have been revealed in our media and social media in recent days. That would be most unfortunate,” he said.
Clarke, who told Parliament that he is the son of a retired teacher, said he could empathise with teachers but would not jeopardise the gains made with the economy through fiscal discipline.
“What more ought I to do? Should I put at risk the progress Jamaica has made after sharing the significance of the amounts in the context of Jamaica’s finances and Jamaica’s economic history? Should I seek to reverse the economic gains made through mutual sacrifice?” he questioned, though at the same time conceding that teachers deserve more.
The JTA is next expected to write to the finance ministry with the update, after which the agreement will be formally signed.
Up to Sunday, wage deals were inked with more than 60 per cent of public sector workers.
Negotiations continue with unions representing the police and a few other groups.
Talks Sunday with the police made “some progress”, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.