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Observer story mischievous, says Dalley

Friday, February 22, 2013    

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HORACE Dalley yesterday denied that civil servants had rejected a one-off payment offer from the Government and labelled the Jamaica Observer's lead story on the matter as "erroneous, mischievous and misleading".

"There is absolutely no truth to the story that the unions have rejected any offer or proposal from the Government," Dalley is quoted in a news release issued by the finance ministry.

Dalley, the minister without portfolio in the ministry, is also reported as saying that no rejection of an offer has been communicated to the Government.

The Observer yesterday reported that delegates representing public sector workers had rejected the Government's offer of a one-off payment that would amount to $1,250 per month, or $312 per week, for the next two years.

The offer is included in a $1.5-billion Heads of Agreement proposal from the Government in an effort to conclude negotiations on a new contract following the expiration of the 2010/12 agreement and meet preconditions for a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

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 highly placed Observer sources said that the delegates, who met last week with their union leaders at the JCTU's offices in St Andrew to review the proposals, were not impressed with the offers.

According to our sources, the delegates have communicated to the Government the reluctance of members to accept the offers. In addition, the unions have made new proposals to Dalley.

However, yesterday, Dalley denied the report and said that the discussions "are proceeding satisfactorily in an atmosphere of sincerity and with full knowledge of the economic situation that the country currently faces".

He also said that he was pleased with the participation and responses of the unions and other major stakeholders to the negotiations.

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