Public servants to resume talks on fringe benefits in January
PUBLIC sector workers are to resume discussions, early in 2024, on a number of outstanding issues arising from leftover fringe benefits which had been stifled to accommodate their pay increases since 2022.
However, newly elected Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) President St Patrice Ennis says the discussions on outstanding fringe benefits at the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service have been at a very positive level and should be concluded in time.
He said unions will continue playing the leading role on behalf of government workers who are insisting on improvements to a number of fringe benefits, including travelling expenses, motor vehicle upkeep, and other commuted or fixed items which were left unaddressed by the discussions on salary increases last year.
This, after having completed salary negotiations with the public servants who were demanding closure to discussions on other wage issues including reimbursement for benefits such as incentives leftover from the consultations with Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, which started in February and lasted for eight months.
A new 16-band structure had been developed to facilitate the alignment of the salaries of the public sector workers with various subsectors. This was the first step in the three-phase implementation process for the restructuring of compensation salaries which were adjusted over a period of three years, starting November and retroactive to April 2022.
The unions insisted that factoring the rolling in of allowances must be done in a way that will not impair the new salaries when they are compared to the total compensation currently received by the employees of the State.
“The rolling in of allowances should be phased in to ensure that the employees who receive them are not at a disadvantage when they are factored into basic compensation,” Ennis said.
He added that it must also be tax-neutral and should make allowances for at least five cycles of adjustments to the rolled-in allowances, to ensure that the real value over time is not eroded as wage increases do not keep pace with the real cost of maintaining a motor vehicle, for example.
Ennis, who is also president of the Union of Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (UTASP), told the Jamaica Observer that JCTU and other government-related public servants have written to Dr Clarke since his return home. He said they have already started to address outstanding issues such as retroactivity for passenger mileage, a uniform policy, and overtime payments, as well as the status of the workers and the suspension of their increment – which have not been settled.
He noted that there has been a suspension of incremental payments since April 2022 which should be resumed, retroactively, by the Government.
“Now they want to dispense with it and the unions are saying ‘No’. The Government has put forward a position for two of the three incremental payments, both of which would have been paid in 2025, but [under] those terms the workers would have been paid only two of three increments, covering 2022,” Ennis explained.
Ennis admitted that since meeting with the minister on December 13, with a team including Jamaica Civil Association President Techa Clarke-Griffiths and her Vice-President Clarence Frater, they have become agreeable on most items except on the issue of increment.