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#BudgetDebate2018: 'Don't be wrong and strong,' Golding tells Shaw

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — In the midst of the current impasse between public-sector workers and the government, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Mark Golding is advising Finance Minister Audley Shaw – “don't be wrong and strong”.

Golding, who was making his contribution to the fiscal year 2018/19 budget debate in the House of Representatives today, said that public-sector workers deserve better and that they were better off under the previous administration.

“We treated them with respect. We consulted them in a genuine way and earned their trust. Now they are being insulted,” said Golding.

Golding said that in Shaw's budget presentation last Thursday, he sought to justify the proposed package to public sector workers of 16 per cent over four years, which, according to Golding, is below the Government's own projected rate of inflation for that period, with some “arithmetical gymnastics” to make it look like they are getting much more.

“Minister, it was disingenuous to mention the standard annual 2.5 per cent performance increment which has been in place for many years, as part of the pay package being offered to public sector works. The 2.5 per cent performance increment has always been part of public sector remuneration, even when there was no increase on basic pay. And the fact is not everyone gets performance increment, as the teachers, police and others have pointed out,” Golding argued.

He added that what is even harsher was the suggestion that public sector workers have seen an “average increase” in their net pay between seven per cent and 14 per cent because of the $1.5 million tax break.

“I ask you, is that not hypocrisy in the extreme? How can you say to public sectors in February 2016 that they would benefit from $18,000 a month of more pay because of the “1.5 [tax break]”, and then rely on the “1.5” as your justification for denying the public-sector workers a reasonable increase that will be ahead of projected inflation?” questioned the opposition spokesperson, insisting that Shaw gave with one hand, and then turned around and “jooked” them with the other.

“This part of your plan was kept well hidden. No one would have voted for your tax plan if they knew it would be used to deny them a reasonable pay increase, after all the sacrifices they made to help put Jamaica's public finances on track. That is samfie governance. That is your way, not our way,” Golding insisted.

Touching on reports of the government's intention for retroactive payments for the 2017/18 fiscal year to be paid to all public-sector workers, including the police and the teachers and others who have not reached an agreement with the Government, Golding questioned the legality of such a move.

“What is the legal basis for the Government making this payment when there is no contractual arrangement in place to authorise it? These are public funds, and must be used in accordance with the law, and not as a tool to undermine the sanctity of the collective bargaining process. This happens in dictatorships and should never happen in our democracy,” argued Golding.

Moya Hinds

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