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Finance Minister insists hiking taxes to pay for higher wages not an option

Published:Sunday | March 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Finance Minister Audley Shaw says the only way for government to meet the demands of public school teachers and other public sector groups clamouring for higher wages is to hike taxes on the population.

In a release issued through the Office of the Prime Minister this afternoon, the finance minister insisted that the 16 per cent being offered over four years to public sector workers is the best that the government can give at this time.

"Given the calculations, the only possible approach to satisfying the demands of the unions, in terms of an improved offer, would be an increase in taxes on all Jamaicans to pay for this improvement," Shaw explained.

But he stressed that hiking taxes at this time was not an option for the government, as it would destabilise the country's fragile economy and would have serious implications for all.

"The Government is also cognisant of the interest of the teachers and agrees that public servants, including teachers, deserve more," the finance minister reasoned.

"The government is, however, unable at this time to improve its current wage offer to public sector workers as this would have serious repercussions for and imperil the economy," he continued.
Shaw said better wage offers would come as the country's economy improves.
In the meantime, the finance minister has brushed aside accusations of union busting and breaching the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the decision to proceed with paying the portion of the 16 per cent wage increase due to teachers for the 2017 contract period.

According to Shaw, "it is not unusual and not unprecedented that initial payments are made in a contract period before the new negotiated contracts are signed".

He said the move was "a sign of goodwill between the Government and workers". 
The finance minister again called for understanding and patience among public sector workers and pledged to continue negotiations to settle on a wage deal for the period under consideration.