Strike over

Strike over

NWC, unions close to agreement on one-off payment

By Balford Henry
Senior staff reporter

Saturday, August 31, 2019

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National Water Commission (NWC) employees at the Marescaux Road office in Kingston resumed work yesterday, ending a one-day strike over a disputed salary payment.

The resumption followed a meeting with Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke at his ministry at Heroes' Circle in Kingston. Union sources said that they were satisfied with the progress that was made, and are looking forward to signing off on the issue on Monday.

The NWC workers stopped working on Thursday after the management refused to budge on their offer of a $40,000 one-off payment to the least paid staff. The union said that the payment is based on an understanding emanating from the signing in 2017 of a four-year salary agreement for all public sector workers which left room for agencies, which can afford to, to make a one-off payment to their least paid employees.

But the workers are seeking a $160,000 payment, and the ministry has said that a payment at that level was not envisaged when the understanding was reached.

The NWC employs some 2,200 workers, and the management has insisted that it is not in a position to meet that demand. The debt-ridden commission projected a net deficit of $1.85 billion last financial year, which was an increase on its $1.3 billion net deficit in 2017/18. It also owes some $2.5 billion in loan/bank interest. However, despite the huge gap, trade union sources said that they were confident that an agreement acceptable to both parties will be signed next week when they return to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, having had a response from Dr Clarke.

The Government and unions representing its employees reached an agreement in 2017 on a four-year contract to improve salaries and salary-related allowances by five per cent in year one; two per cent in year two; four per cent in year three; and five per cent in year four.

The NWC workers are represented jointly by the National Workers Union, Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, and the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers.

Some 98 per cent of the Government's employees have accepted the offer. The others are still negotiating.

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