'A drop in the bucket'
14 more bargaining units sign 4% wage increase but put Government on noticeSaturday, November 20, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
Fourteen bargaining units yesterday inked a wage agreement with the Government giving public sector workers a four per cent increase for a year.
However, Senior Uniform Officers Association President Leslie Campbell said, while it is a privilege to be invited to the signing ceremony, the agreement is not a victory for the Ministry of Finance or the unions.
“We understand the struggle that the Government has been going through with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been affecting many of us at our different workplaces, and so we want to say thanks to the ministry for inviting us and for accepting our understanding of this four per cent, but it is not that we are settling with the four per cent, because come April 2022 we are expecting to have a compensation review rolled out in its full extent,” Campbell said at the signing ceremony held at the finance ministry in Kingston.
“Whether there will be another pandemic or disaster, whether you cut health, whether you cut security, but we are expecting that April 2022 we will have the compensation for all of us,” he said.
Campbell said unions have patiently waited for an increase, but due to the economic challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic they had to ensure that the members of the unions “get something, even if it is small”.
“Light bill is going up, gas is going up, and when gas goes up it comes down back by 25 cents …15 cents. We need to understand that everything has gone up and so this four per cent is just a drop in the bucket,” he said.
Campbell told the Jamaica Observer that the compensation review aims at placing the security groups under one umbrella in order to unify salary scales.
The one-year agreement includes a one-off payment of $40,000 to workers who are earning $1.5 million and less, as well as an assurance to pay the retroactive amounts dating back to April 1, 2021.
In response to Campbell's call for the compensation review, Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke said, “We hear Mr Campbell very clearly, and it is our expressed intention — it is something that we have been working on for a couple of years — to begin the implementation of the compensation review in the next fiscal year. Clearly, we can't do everything at once, because the cost is significant, but it is our plan to begin in April 2022, and you would have played a key role by your agreement today in allowing us to do that.”
Clarke pointed out that paying for the 2021/2022 increases and doing a compensation review in the same year would not have been feasible. He said if the increases for this year were carried into next year it would compromise the Government's ability to implement the compensation review.
However, he said there there are signs of recovery for the economy, as a return to pre-COVID levels of outputs will happen sooner than was originally expected.
In addition to the Senior Uniform Officers Association, the wage agreement was signed by Jamaica Federation of Corrections; Legal Officers Association; Jamaica Association of Veterinary Paramedics; Jamaica Association of Public Health Inspectors; Jamaica Enrolled Assistant Nurses; and the Council of Paramedics which represents eight bargaining groups including dental nurses, radiographers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nutritionists and dieticians, nutrition and dietetic assistants, medical physicists, and contact investigators.