A rocky road ahead

Trade union leader expects tough negotiations for public sector workers

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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ROSE HALL, St James — President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) Helene Davis Whyte is expecting the 2017/2019 wage negotiations between Government and trade unions, on behalf of public sector workers, to be turbulent.

Davis Whyte, who was speaking at yesterday's opening of the three-day Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) 53rd Annual Conference at Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa, said she was reluctant to accept the offer to speak at the conference as a result of the tough, anticipated negotiations ahead.

“It was with a little bit of trepidation that I accepted really, because we are at the beginning of wage negotiations for the public sector and, from what we are experiencing so far, we don't envisage that it will be an easy negotiation,” Davis Whyte stated.

“And I don't know any negotiation that has really been easy but, from the soundings of the Government, we hear five in four and there are problems with five in four because of not being able to meet certain targets and so on,” said the trade unionist.

The five in four is a reference to the Administration's target of achieving five per cent growth in four years.

She explained that as a result of the soundings she does not foresee a decent wage offer to public sector workers.

“When you hear those kinds of soundings you are not expecting that they (Government) will be placing anything on the table that is even going to come near to what we consider to be a reasonable offer,” Davis Whyte added.

She was, however, optimistic that the leadership of JTA and the JCTU will endeavour to leverage the bargaining in favour of the teachers and other public sector workers.

“But I expect that the leaders of the JTA, as well as the leaders of the confederation of trade unions, will do our very best to ensure that we get what is [a reasonable offer, although] I don't think we will ever get what we deserve,” the trade unionist noted.

“… When you look right through the entire public sector and you look at the wages, and you compare [to the private sector], I don't think we have ever gotten what we really deserved. But we try to get the best package possible in the circumstances that Jamaica finds itself in today economically,” said Davis Whyte.

The conference is held under the theme: 'Navigating the Education Landscape: Transforming , Engaging, Collaborating, Facilitating and Leading.'

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