Trade union ex­pert says public-sec­tor work­ers might face an­other wage freeze

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - an­dre.poyser@glean­

TRADE UNION ex­pert Danny Roberts has ar­gued that public-sec­tor work­ers should tem­per ex­pec­ta­tions as they head into an­other round of wage ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Gov­ern­ment.

In light of the fact that the Gov­ern­ment has reached a staff-level agree­ment for a new US$1.7-bil­lion eco­nomic re­form pro­gramme with the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF), Roberts is of the view that this could con­strain the fis­cal space with which the Gov­ern­ment has to work given the con­di­tion­al­i­ties to be ex­pected.

The cur­rent four-year eco­nomic re­form pro­gramme, which Ja­maica signed with the IMF, has been de­scribed as the most aus­tere by the Cen­ter for Eco­nomic and Pol­icy Re­search in the United States. The new pro­gramme is ex­pected to de­mand sim­i­lar aus­ter­ity mea­sures.

Ac­cord­ing to Roberts, who heads the Hugh Law­son Shearer Trade Union Ed­u­ca­tion In­sti­tute (HLSTUEI), some amount of dis­cord is to be ex­pected in the im­pend­ing wage ne­go­ti­a­tions given that the de­mands of public-sec­tor work­ers for in­creased re­mu­ner­a­tion will be at odds with IMF con­di­tion­al­i­ties.

“These con­tra­dic­tions are go­ing to play them­selves out when the wage ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gin, be­cause public-sec­tor work­ers will have high ex­pec­ta­tions given that the pro­gramme is com­ing to an end. But the IMF has con­sis­tently raised alarm about the size of the public-sec­tor wage bill and that is the only con­di­tion­al­ity that was not met in this pro­gramme, so they might want it to be met in the new pro­gramme,” he said in an in­ter­view with The Gleaner.

He fur­ther pointed out that the ex­pec­ta­tion of public-sec­tor work­ers will be driven by their de­sire to be re­warded for the sac­ri­fices they have made dur­ing the life of the eco­nomic re­form pro­gramme, but said that the Gov­ern­ment will be con­strained in meet­ing those de­mands.


The trade union ex­pert ar­gued that the re­luc­tance of the Gov­ern­ment to com­mit to cut­ting the size of the public sec­tor only leaves it with the op­tion of de­press­ing wages even fur­ther.

“If the tar­get of bring­ing public-sec­tor wages to nine per cent of GDP is to hold, and if there are not enough per­sons go­ing off on re­tire­ment, per­sons re­sign­ing or leav­ing by at­tri­tion and the econ­omy has not grown suf­fi­ciently, then you have very lim­ited op­tions. You ei­ther have to cut the public sec­tor or re­duce salaries. There are no other op­tions out­side of that if the num­bers are not adding up,” the HLSTUEI head added.

Roberts dis­closed that the HLSTUEI will be seek­ing to fa­cil­i­tate frank dis­cus­sions on what rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions public-sec­tor work­ers should have go­ing into the next round of wage ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The in­sti­tute is set to host a public fo­rum on the is­sue to­mor­row at 1 p.m. The fo­rum, which will take place at the Uni­ver­sity of the West Indies-based HLSTUEI lec­ture the­atre, will fea­ture min­is­ter of state in the Min­istry of Fi­nance and the Public Ser­vice, Fay­val Wil­liams, as the key­note speaker.


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