Gov't taking another look at police wage claims, says PM

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaocxaobserver.com

Monday, November 19, 2018

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THE Government is taking a second look at its salary offers to members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), in an effort to end the stand-off with the Jamaica Police Federation.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) annual conference at National Arena in Kingston, yesterday, that his concern about the delay in reaching an agreement on a new pay package for the cops has led him to consult with Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke on the issue.

“I have been watching the wage negotiations with the police, and I am very concerned,” Holness told thousands of supporters packed into the venue and its environs for the conference, which was also celebrating the party's 75th anniversary.

“I want our policemen and women to know that I am sympathetic, that we have your interest at heart, and we are doing the best we can. And, I have asked the minister of finance to increase his efforts to bring this matter to a close. We want our policemen and women to be happy in serving their country,” Holness said.

However, the prime minister also noted that there is a “new thrust of fiscal discipline that has to be observed” by the Government.

“We ask that all stakeholders bear in mind that when it comes to negotiating for more from the Government, there is no secret formula stashed away somewhere that the Government can begin digging into. Our new thrust of fiscal discipline ensures that we set out clearly the maximum that Government can do upfront for the people. So, I ask that that consideration be borne in mind,” the prime minister said.

“It is a sacrifice that both sides have to make. I guarantee you that as crime [rate] comes down our growth will go up, our tax base will increase — not more taxes, but the number of people paying taxes will increase; and that means that we will have a broader fund, a wider fund, a deeper fund. We will have more resources that we can sit with you at the bargaining table with mutual respect to give you a better portion,” he said.

“It starts with us understanding that we, the Government, respects the police. We respect the claim, and we promise to see what we can do to make Jamaica a better place together,” Holness said.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) were the two most prominent bodies unable to reach agreement with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, up to recently, on a new wage package. However, the NAJ signed off in September, after settling some more fringe benefits issues.

The NAJ's agreement increased to 80 per cent the number of public sector workers to sign off on the new four-year arrangement offered by the ministry. But the JCF has remained opposed to settling for the current offers.

The ministry has insisted that not only would additional compensation for the police unbalance the agreement with other groups of public sector employees, but also that there is a need to reduce public sector salaries to nine per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

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