Police on edge
Federation says proposed 2.5% wage increase causing uneaseWednesday, April 28, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
The “very modest increase in wages” for public sector workers factored in by the Government for the 2021/22 fiscal year, which might translate to a meagre 2.5 per cent, is already causing unease amongst rank-and-file members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
The incremental offer promised by the Government — in lieu of a one-year delay in implementing a new public sector compensation structure — is expected to be front and centre when the executive of the Jamaica Police Federation, which represents the cops, meets Friday.
“I know that high on the agenda will be the salary negotiations and the way forward and the quote, unquote 2.5 per cent offer that the Government seems to be putting on the table. We will be discussing it with a view of meeting with the general membership for them to take a position,” Police Federation President Corporal Rohan James told the Jamaica Observer.
“The central committee cannot unilaterally take a position; the delegates are the ones who mandate us. We will enter our executive meeting and plan a day for meeting with the delegates and seek their direction as to where we go, but I can tell you, police officers are flabbergasted and upset,” James said.
He said police have been further aggravated by criticism over their apparent disquiet with the pending wage negotiations, given the sacrifices made with the demands of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the course of their policing duties.
“That is why I think, more or less, that members are very upset about what is being bandied about, that they are inconsiderate or they may not be so amenable to the Government's economic realities. For good reason, I will reserve stating any position on that until the appropriate time,” Corporal James said.
Public sector wage negotiations have always triggered discord at each negotiating cycle.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke, tabling the 2021/22 Estimates of Expenditure (Budget) at Gordon House in February, had said that, given the massive impact of the pandemic, the Government did not have the resources to begin the implementation of the new structure and, at the same time, finance the country's economic recovery.
Following that announcement, two senior trade union leaders called for an early meeting with the finance minister to discuss the details of the offer. President of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union Senator Kavan Gayle and president of the Union of Clerical, Administrative, and Supervisory Employees Vincent Morrison had told the Observer that, while they understood the conditions which led to the minister's appeal, there is an urgent need to deal with the “modest” increase that he has suggested in lieu of benefits.
According to Gayle, the unions need to know the level of support public sector workers can look forward to in light of the effect of the pandemic on their lives. He said that the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, of which his union is a member, expects some comprehensive discussions on the issues to begin urgently.
Speaking further on the issue during a meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament, Minister Clarke, who declined to give details as to the percentage increase, said: “We are not proposing a wage freeze this year, as Jamaica has endured in previous years; what we are proposing is a modest increase, and once the recovery happens next year we will begin implementation of the compensation review. So we have made a provision, but it's not customary to tell people what their increase is going to be; we sit down with our partners and we discuss it. So I don't want to have my voice associated with any percentages, because that would be interpreted the wrong way.”
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