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PM wants Cabinet input in police wage issue

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness, in a statement yesterday, assured members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that he has not ignored the issues raised by them in their appeal for his intervention in their current pay dispute with the Government.

Holness' response to a letter from the Jamaica Police Federation, which followed the limited “sick-out” lasting several days last week involving approximately 25 per cent of the force protesting against the Government's pay increase offer of six per cent over two years, however, reiterated the danger that failure to reduce the Government's wage bill this year could derail its economic growth programme.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has scheduled a meeting for this morning at its offices at National Heroes' Circle in Kingston, to continue negotiations with public sector unions. Today's meeting will involve the Jamaica Teachers' Association, which has also rejected the six per cent offer as inadequate.

The unions have claimed pay increases totalling 60 per cent over the 24-month period for which a new agreement is expected to last (2017/2019). The last agreement, which was for a seven per cent increase over two years, expired on March 31, 2017. But since then the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with which the Government has a Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) to reduce its debt, warned that the failure to fulfil a commitment to reduce its wage bill to nine per cent of gross domestic product, made during the previous Administration, spells danger for the country's economic prospects.

The IMF's team leader, Dr Uma Ramakrishnan, said that the Administration's failure to reduce the public-sector wage bill is hurting its growth efforts. She also noted that the team and the Government concurred on the urgent need to accelerate the wage negotiations, during their visit to Kingston in December.

Despite today's meeting, it seems unlikely that any major change in the course of the negotiations will come before next Monday when the Cabinet meets.

“I have been discussing the issues raised in your letter and in the public domain with ministers (Audley) Shaw and (Robert) Montague. However, a much broader discussion with the Cabinet and the Ministry of Finance is necessary, given the far-reaching implications of the issues to be addressed,” Holness said yesterday.

He noted that the Cabinet “will give further consideration and advice to the minister (of finance and the public service) and his negotiating team”. However, he pointed out the “delicate state and stage of Jamaica's economic recovery”.

“While the economic signals and prospects are all pointing in the right direction, our present action will determine whether or not we stay on course to recovery. It is in our collective interest to ensure that Jamaica stays on the right track,” Holness said.

He said, however, that he understood and appreciated “the challenges, personal sacrifice and ultimate danger” with which the police must contend in fighting crime.

“The Government of Jamaica highly values the service and contribution of our policemen and women in providing security for the nation, which is a prerequisite for economic growth and job creation,” he stated.

“We respect the important role played by the Jamaica Police Federation in advocating for the welfare of our police officers,” he added.