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Workers who agree to Gov't wage offer to get back pay by March 31

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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PUBLIC sector workers whose unions have signed the agreement for a 16 per cent pay increase over the period 2017/2021 will be paid a windfall of almost one year's retroactivity, or back pay, by March 31.

Finance and the Public Service Minister Audley Shaw confirmed yesterday that seven members of the umbrella Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) have already signed and are assured these payments, which are to be addressed in a second supplementary estimate due by next month.

These unions, which include the major ones in the confederation — Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, National Workers' Union, Jamaica Civil Service Association, and Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers whose President Helene Davis Whyte heads the JCTU — represent close to two-thirds of its membership.

They have agreed to pay increases of five per cent, two per cent, four per cent, and five per cent over the four years of the agreement, which commences on April 1, 2017 and ends March 31, 2021.

Four JCTU member unions — The University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU), which is led by Opposition Senator Lambert Brown; Union of Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Personnel; Union of Schools, Agricultural and Allied Workers (USAAW); and the United Union of Jamaica — have not signed for various reasons.

According to Clifton Grant, vice-president of the UAWU, the union has temporarily withdrawn from the JCTU. He said that the action was taken in protest against the failure of the seven other unions to inform Senator Brown of their signing of the agreement last week Tuesday. Brown is also the Opposition spokesman on the public sector pay issues.

General secretary of USAAW Keith Comrie said his union had no intention of withdrawing from the confederation. But he felt that more could be done for the least paid government workers, who make up the bulk of his membership.

The Jamaica Teachers' Association is also a member of the JCTU, but conducts its own negotiations. The Police Federation and the Nurses' Association of Jamaica are also to conclude their negotiations.

Shaw told the House of Representatives last Thursday, following the opening of the new parliamentary year, that $201 billion, or 43 per cent of the expenditure budget for 2018/19, has been allocated as compensation for government workers, based on an assumption that the Government's 16 per cent pay increase offer over four years would be accepted.

He said that this was in addition to a provision of $34.5 billion to meet pension payments for these workers.

Shaw said that compensation of government workers in the new budget represents 35.6 per cent of total expenditure and 47.7 per cent of primary expenditure, and was planned to accommodate the planned negotiated wage increases and the retroactive payments before the end of the financial year.

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