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Trade union wants IMF boss to speak about energy, growth and devaluation

Friday, June 27, 2014    

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THE Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) has proposed that this weekend's discussions between the Government and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, focus on energy, growth and the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar.

"We are urging the parties to look seriously at issues such as: reducing the cost of energy; introducing programmes that can stimulate growth in the economy and produce jobs; and end the constant slide of the Jamaica dollar and the significant effect on the cost of living," a statement from the BITU's president, Senator Kavan Gayle said in a statement yesterday.

Gayle's statement, issued on the eve of Lagarde's arrival in Kingston today for discussions with the Government on their current Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreement, said that the union is convinced that Jamaican workers have shown the highest level of patriotism, tolerance and courage over the past year, "as the Government committed itself, totally, to meeting the EFF targets, at the expense of economic opportunities and social support for Jamaicans".

However, he said that even patriotism, tolerance and courage have their limits, "and we are warning both the Government and the IMF that the Jamaican workers, in particular, and the Jamaican poor, in general, are at the virtual limit of their accommodation, and that this must be taken into consideration during the discussions to be held this weekend".

Gayle also urged the Government to pay more attention to the process of communicating with its employees in the public sector, who have been the subject of grave "economic injustices".

These, he said, include the constant redirection of deductions from their salaries to sources other than those they are designated for, and the refusal to rectify these actions, despite the stress of the constant threats from financial institutions with which they have credit agreements and the bailiffs who have been instructed to take action against them.

He said that the BITU had previewed Lagarde's visit in the context of her most recent comments, including those relating to the issues of economic inclusion and financial integrity which, she had said, are critical elements in the IMF's efforts to recover from the series of economic setbacks the world has encountered over the last decade.

"She has addressed efforts not only to rebuild the global economy, and to ensure that it will never again become the economic football of wealthy individuals and institutions, but an inclusive mechanism which can build economic inclusion and financial integrity. However, the BITU also recognises the tremendous influence exerted on multilateral institutions, like the IMF, by the wealthiest countries and individuals, which often ignore the efforts and contributions of the poor and the most vulnerable sectors of the society, most notably the workers and the working poor," Senator Gayle said.

"In that context, we are forced to highlight the tremendous contribution of our workers to whatever successes have been achieved in meeting the targets already set under the IMF's Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreement with Jamaica over the past 12 months," he stated.

He said that, in the process, Jamaican workers have endured, among other things: an agreement on a wage freeze, which continues to limit the spending power of the workers in the public sector, as well as those in the private sector; Inflation of between eight and ten percent; an annual unemployment rate at a 12-year high of 15.3 per cent for 2013; unemployment among young people at 35.2 per cent, and even worse among young women at 44.1 per cent at October 2013; and the high cost of electricity and basic food items, and the imminent increases in these basic items for the rest of 2014/15.

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