AN offer of a one-off payment that would amount to $1,250 per month, or $312 per week, for the next two years from the Government has been soundly rejected by delegates representing salaried and weekly paid public sector workers.
The offer is included in a $1.5-billion Heads of Agreement proposal from the Government to the trade unions in the sector, in an effort to conclude negotiations on a new contract following the expiration of the 2010/12 agreement, and meet pre-conditions for a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The cash offers were for one-off payments of $15,000 per annum, payable in August of each of the contract years (2013/2015), to monthly paid workers in Central and Local Government and Executive Agencies; and a $15,000 increase in tailoring allowance for weekly paid workers, which would move the allowance from $18,000 per annum to $33,000 per annum, effective April 1, 2013.
The Government pointed out that, in return, the workers would have to forego wage increases over the two years. This would apply to all remuneration under contracts of employment for any kind of work performed in the sector, "save and except for" increases through promotion and increments or reclassification agreed to prior to the period of the agreement; or where growth in the economy exceeds programmed growth.
The Government also offered to assist the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) to fully develop land transferred to the confederation for the purpose of providing housing for public sector workers covered by the agreement; as well as $2 million per annum to provide scholarships for children of sector workers within modalities to be determined between the Ministry of Finance and Planning and the JCTU.
It also offered to provide adequate funding for a "refocused skills-training programme", and further expansion to include professional training and a productivity-enhancement scheme, in collaboration with the JCTU and the National Productivity Centre.
But this was not enough to convince the delegates who met last week with their union leaders at the JCTU's offices in St Andrew to review the proposals.
Although union sources have been largely tight-lipped about the results of last week's JCTU board meeting and their consultations with the delegates, it is understood they have communicated to the Government the reluctance of members to accept the offers. It is also understood that the unions have made some new proposals to Minister Without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and Planning Horace Dalley, and are awaiting a meeting with him to get a response.
A meeting of the Public Sector Monitoring Committee, which meets each month, has in the meantime been postponed for the end of the month.
The Government's fiscal management strategy requires a reduction in public sector wages to GDP ratio from the current 10.5 per cent to nine per cent by 2016. This is one of the Government's priority undertakings to the IMF in an effort to get a new agreement. The public sector wage bill is approximately $150 billion.