Regional

Claims of conflict in public sector wage negotiations exaggerated — Phillips

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large, South/Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 26, 2013    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Finance Minister Peter Phillips said Sunday that media reports suggesting "conflict" between trade unions and Government over wage negotiations in the context of a proposed agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are exaggerated.

"...A lot of the impression in the media of conflict over those (wage) negotiations is the way the editors write up some of the stories..," Phillips said during a question-and-answer session with ruling People's National Party Region Five delegates.

"It look like a man can't write a story nowadays unless 'im say dis one slam dat, or dat one reject dat... is a pugilistic metaphor that drives a lot of the media commentary. But when you listen to the clip that is actually played or the quote actually given, you not seeing that conflict that is coming out in the headline...," the finance minister said.

Phillips was responding to a suggestion from Mayor of Black River Everton Fisher that he (Phillips) and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller needed to be more integrally involved in wage negotiations in support of Horace Dalley, who is minister without portfolio in the finance ministry. Fisher had voiced concern at what he said were media reports suggesting serious differences between the negotiating parties. Last week Dalley labelled a Jamaica Observer story related to wage negotiations as "erroneous, mischievous and misleading".

Sunday, Phillips assured Fisher that "we are all engaged and I am very, very positive of mind in relation to the whole thing".

Media reports have suggested that the unions are vehemently opposed to proposals by the Government for a freeze on wages as part of the effort to satisfy IMF requirements.

When questioned by the Observer, Phillips refused to be drawn on the issue.

"We are negotiating with the unions and certainly the objective of the negotiation is to ensure that we meet wages to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio of nine per cent by 2015/16," he said. When pressed, he would say only "let the discussions continue... the discussions going well."

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