MINISTER without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and Planning Horace Dalley has cautioned trade unions against trying to "stick up" a broke government.
"Yuh can't stick up a bruk man. I am asking them to understand that there is no increase on the table, but we are going to fight to keep the jobs," the minister told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview on the weekend.
According to Dalley, as the chief negotiator for the Government, his "ideological position" is that separation of public sector workers from their jobs "is the last thing we want to do". However, he said that there was a condition to keeping the jobs, which is that there would be another wage freeze.
Dalley suggested that his position, which was put to a technical team from the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) at his ministry on December 27, had led to substantial progress, and an agreement was in the making. But that has been discounted by the leader of the JCTU team, Helen Davis-Whyte, general secretary of the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers (JALGO), who says that the talks have just begun and it is too early to predict a resolution.
"It is very early days yet to be talking about signing an agreement," she told the Observer.
"I can't even say," she responded to a question as to whether an agreement is likely by the end of 2012/2013 fiscal year.
"We are at a stalemate now, because there are many workers who are unhappy with the proposal for another wage freeze, and those who would accept it want other things, instead," she said.
In the meantime, the Jamaica Teachers Association, the Police Federation and the Nurses Association of Jamaica, like the JCTU and the Jamaica Civil Service Association, have also been demanding wage negotiations and improvements in the compensation paid to their members.
Davis-Whyte confirmed that at the December 27 meeting, the minister had given the Government's position on a number of the 25 claims made in September by the JCTU.
"Various items have been placed on the table. We have put together a document which will be circulated to the unions for discussions with their members, after which we will make a response to those proposals. But, it is too early to predict how close we are to an agreement," she insisted.