THE Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) has become the latest public sector union to sign a wage-restraint agreement with the Portia Simpson Miller-led Government.
Previously, the teachers' union had stated that it could not make such an agreement and, as a result, did not join other public sector unions which signed the agreement with the Government last week.
JTA President Clayton Hall yesterday said the teachers decided to relent given the circumstances facing the country. He noted that the wage-restraint deal for 2012-2015 came in the form of a package with other incentives.
He warned that, although the JTA has joined the other groups in signing, it will remain strident in defending its members, adding that this will also be the last agreement to a wage restraint with the Government.
In the meantime, the Government is still hoping that the country's nurses will come on board. But Anthonette Patterson, president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), said, while the group understood the country's financial position, its members will not accept the wage-freeze proposal.
Another public sector group, which is also refusing to accept wage restraint, is not ruling out protest action as it makes certain demands on the Government. Following a meeting on Thursday involving senior officials of the ministries of Finance and Transport, the island's air traffic controllers said this is one of the options being looked at.
"As its stands right now we still do not agree, we still have not accepted the wage freeze. And if needs be, at an appropriate time after having met with authority, after exploring all the avenues, then ultimately meeting with our members, the executive will decide where to take it from there. What I can positively say is that if we see no intrinsic benefit to forgoing wages, then we will protest," said president of the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association Kurt Solomon.
The Government is seeking to wrap up negotiations with unions representing public sector workers before today, as it presses to reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an extended fund facility.
The Jamaica Civil Service Association and the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions have already signed the wage-restraint agreement with the Government.
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.
Reduction of the country's wage bill as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product is one of the preconditions the Government must meet before the IMF will consider a deal with Jamaica.
The board of the IMF is expected to consider Jamaica's Letter of Intent later this month.
At last week's signing, 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 the country.