KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Government today passed one of the final hurdles to securing a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the signing of an agreement with public servants to restrain wage increases over the next three years.
The Heads of Agreement for the 2012/2015-contract period, between the Government and public sector unions/associations representing the majority of public sector workers, was signed at Jamaica House.
Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, hailed the civil servants and called on the country to “recognise in a special way, the huge sacrifice,” being made by the workers in the interest of Jamaica.
She thanked the unions, representing the workers, for putting Jamaica first. “No praise is too great for the leadership of the unions, who have demonstrated the highest level of patriotic responsibility and concern for national interest,” Simpson Miller stated.
The unions have agreed to change their negotiating cycle from two to three years, along with a wage restraint from 2012 to 2015. This will mean a total of five years of wage containment in the country’s interest.
Simpson Miller said the restraint is critical to the Economic Reform Programme, and is a necessary precondition to securing an agreement with the IMF. “We have to balance our budgets, so we can balance people’s lives,” she said.
The Prime Minister stated that Government, recognising the sacrifice of the public servants, will be making some concessions to workers. Among these is the extension of the reduced interest rate for National Housing Trust (NHT) mortgagers to 2015. The provision should have ended in June.
Simpson Miller also informed that she will be having further dialogue with the agency to see what else can be done in the interest of the workers.
President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), Oneil Grant, described the agreement as an indication of the spirit of the worker. He acknowledged that it was a “tough sell,” but noted that the decision was made in the interest of Jamaica.
He pledged unwavering support for the Government’s efforts on behalf of the nation, and urged that the sacrifice must not be repeated.
“We have created an opportunity out of this crisis to correct the wrongs and to build the trust, and build the level of partnership not to go that route again,” Grant said.
Minister of Finance and Planning, Peter Phillips, at a meeting with church leaders yesterday (March 5), also heaped praises on the civil servants for agreeing to further wage restraint.
“Proportionately, civil servants, who voted …to make a commitment, which would amount to five years of wage restraint, are making as great, if not a greater sacrifice than anyone else, and they are really to be applauded,” Dr Phillips stated.
Approximately 20 public sector unions and associations were represented at the signing event. Also attending were several Ministers of Government as well as the President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Christopher Zacca.