State Minister Proposes Single Group Annual Wage Negotiations

Photo: Adrian Walker Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, addresses a forum on public-sector wage negotiations hosted by the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, on January 22.

Story Highlights

  • State Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has proposed that public-sector workers change their traditional approach to collective bargaining and select one group annually for negotiations.
  • “We have a situation where all public-sector workers come up for reviews at the same time. That by itself makes it impossible to grant… . I have said, what if we were to take one of these groups, lift it out of the different bodies of workers, and focus on this one group [annually],” Mr. Spencer said.
  • “While that proposal is examined, the big question you’re going to run into is, who is to be the first… . That can be answered in a number of ways, but I am putting it squarely to you that, as far as I am concerned, no increase will be able to satisfy everybody at the same time,” the Minister said.

State Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has proposed that public-sector workers change their traditional approach to collective bargaining and select one group annually for negotiations.

Speaking at a forum on public-sector wage negotiations, hosted by the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, on January 22,

Mr. Spencer said he believes this is a possible solution to satisfy the demands of public-sector workers for wage increases among the various groups.

“We have a situation where all public-sector workers come up for reviews at the same time. That by itself makes it impossible to grant… . I have said, what if we were to take one of these groups, lift it out of the different bodies of workers, and focus on this one group [annually],” Mr. Spencer said.

He said the arrangement of the various public-sector groups to be addressed on an annual basis would have to be agreed among the negotiators.

“While that proposal is examined, the big question you’re going to run into is, who is to be the first… . That can be answered in a number of ways, but I am putting it squarely to you that, as far as I am concerned, no increase will be able to satisfy everybody at the same time,” the Minister said.

“If it could be done, it would have been done already, so my suggestion is to look at all the public-sector workers – police, teachers, nurses, confederation of trade union workers – and select one, because when you are finished with that one, you won’t have the amount of allowances now obtained, but you would have carried the salaries to a level that is acceptable in today’s Jamaica, and you would have settled with that group,” he noted.

Mr. Spencer said he is open to suggestions of other possible solutions that will equally satisfy all public-sector workers over time.

The public forum was held under the theme ‘Public-Sector Wage Negotiations: A New Approach, Settling Today for Tomorrow’.

Head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, Danny Roberts, also addressed the forum.

Mr. Roberts said that one objective of the forum was to try and provide a framework to address the current wage negotiations, but, more importantly, to ensure that such a framework can result in creating value and mitigating harm in the future.

He noted that studies done in the Caribbean and the United States have pointed to the need for a deeper and more inclusive approach to public-sector collective bargaining, which goes beyond wage negotiations to the administration of workplace practices and policies that engage workers and provide a sense of equity and fairness.

Mr. Roberts said the traditional approach to collective bargaining in Jamaica and the Caribbean is predicated on a zero-sum game that fosters conflict and power bargaining, with the endgame set to have winners and losers.

He pointed out that, with a few exceptions, public-sector wage negotiations over the last 50 years have been contentious; therefore, the option being offered by the Minister could be reviewed.

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