Minister of state in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Fayval Williams, explained that “What was in the Order was setting a four-year cycle going forward forever, and it was corrected to make it more precise to say it was just this cycle (2017 to 2021).”
Opposition Spokesperson for Labour and Welfare Horace Dalley said the manner in which the information was laid in Parliament on Wednesday after the Budget Debate, was an attempt by the Government to weaken the effectiveness of trade unions.
"To come to the House and to announce ... four years in the midst of negotiations, it is repugnant, it is high-handed," asserted Dalley. "Nothing is wrong to call your workers and say, 'We want to get our economic programme going, (so) we ask you to come with us on board for a longer negotiating cycle.' Nothing is wrong with that under special circumstances," argued Dalley.
At the beginning of yesterday's sitting, Minister of State with responsibility for the Public Service Rudyard Spencer defended the four-year cycle, saying that the extension would facilitate better planning. "The current two-year cycle, with one year already gone, does not allow for the Government to do all the things that are necessary to address the unions' requests and claims," said Spencer.
Financial Secretary Darlene Morrison disclosed told yesterday's meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament that the compensation of employees, as per the wage bill at the end of March 2019, is required by law to be no more than nine per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and steps are being taken to achieve the objective.
This means that in the next four years public sector workers will get no increase on basic salaries than what is currently offered if the target of a wage bill of no more than nine per cent of GDP is to be achieved, as per the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The PAAC in examining the Second Supplementary Estimates 2017-2018, questioned whether the government's decision to pay retroactive salaries to groups with which there is no wage agreement was tantamount to union busting. Morrison however said the Financial Administration and Audit Act gave the finance minister power to carry out the current action without breaking any law.
"The authority to execute the payment of the new salary rates is covered by the Financial Administration and Audit Act, which allows the minister with responsibility for the public service to, by order, subject to negative resolution, establish compensation, negotiation cycles that allow for compensation settlements for persons employed to the Government, to be incorporated into the Estimates of Revenues and Expenditure for the financial year to which the settlements relates," she explained in defence of accusations of union busting and breach of procedure.
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