36% of public sector workers not expecting wage increase this year — survey


36% of public sector workers not expecting wage increase this year — survey

Senior associate editor

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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THIRTY-SIX per cent of public sector workers surveyed recently believe that they will not be granted a wage increase this year because of the economic strain and reduced financial resources brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.

At the same time, seven per cent expect a minimal percentage increase, seven per cent do not believe the pandemic will affect public sector wage negotiations, while another six per cent said Government will use the pandemic as an excuse not to increase the wages of public sector workers.

Only nine per cent are expecting a wage freeze, while seven per cent said there will be job redundancies and a cut in salaries and benefits.

The survey was carried out by the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute at The University of the West Indies Open Campus in collaboration with the Jamaica Civil Service Association. It is part of a memorandum of understanding signed by both organisations for training and research on public sector issues.

Carried out between April 22, 2020 and May 8, 2020, it included 289 respondents across the island in the age groups 18 to 35; 36 to 50; and 51 to 65. Seventy per cent were female and 101 were classified as professionals, 57 classified as administrative and supervisory, and 51 technical.

“As the world continues to reel from the effects of the pandemic, respondents fear that the global economic decline and fallout will negatively affect negotiations and cause the Government to borrow from the International Monetary Fund once again, leaving their focus of debt reduction rather than wage increase,” authors of the survey findings wrote.

“Others believe that work-from-home arrangements, flexible shifts, and 'pandemic realism' should be considered in the next round of negotiations. A few respondents, roughly one per cent, expressed several singular opinions, such as Government creating a contributory fund for emergencies to act as financial cushion, and ensuring that any negotiations are realistic,” they wrote.

Respondents, when asked about health and safety claims they want included in the next round of negotiations between Government and public sector workers, 136 said there should a 100 per cent increase in health insurance coverage, inclusive of all dependents. In addition, they believe there should be an increase in maternity leave with pay and pension benefits. Seventy-six called for personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies for staff; 50 called for better working conditions, including but not limited to technological improvements, ergonomically friendly offices, deep cleaning of offices, air quality testing, and provision of drinking water for staff. Another 41 believe there should be special allowances for civil servants, including discounts on public transportation, at supermarkets, and with bill payments; and 31 called for hazard pay. Only seven listed physical distancing, which is one of the measures implemented by governments worldwide to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The public sector workers, however, had high praises for Government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-three per cent said the handing of the crisis has been very good, and 47 per cent said good, making that an 80 per cent positive rating, compared to three per cent saying bad and one per cent saying very bad. Sixteen per cent said the handling of the crisis by Government was neither good nor bad.

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