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Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies, has said that despite hitches in negotiations to arrive at a second public sector Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), “the administration was confident they will be overcome and a successor agreement entered into”.
“There are some challenges and this is a natural expectation in a democratic society, but the administration is very confident that as in the case of the other challenges, which we faced and overcame during the first MoU, that these will also be overcome and a successor agreement will be entered into,” Minister Davies stated.
The Finance and Planning Minister, who was delivering the opening presentation in the 2006/07 Budget Debate at Gordon House in Kingston today (April 27), said that the two-year MoU, which expired on March 31, was “a significant development for the country’s labour movement and for the maturation of the relationship with the state”, which is the main employer of labour.
“For too many, this MoU was seen simply as a wage freeze (but) for those involved in the process there was always a deeper recognition that although our other objectives and targets were not all met, this agreement transcended a wage pact,” Dr. Davies told the House, stating that, “the gains made over that two-year period were significant and must not be abandoned.”
He further commended “the labour leaders, who recognized the importance of the agreement and the potential for development of the workers, who they represent”, noting that the discussions had proven beneficial and “brought about a greater understanding on both sides of the table, of the issues impacting on national development”.
In February of 2004, trade unions representing public sector workers and the government signed the first MoU, which, among other things, provided for a three-per cent wage restraint for the period April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2006 and saved some 15,000 jobs.
Negotiations for a successor agreement for 2006/08 are at standstill, as trade union representatives have not signed off on the 20 per cent wage offer from the Ministry of Finance and Planning.