JIS News

Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies has said that the two Memoranda of Understanding that have been signed between the Government and the Trade Unions representing the public sector, were the most speedily concluded negotiations since his tenure as Minister of Finance.
He made the observation at a press briefing, which was held at the Ministry’s National Heroes Circle offices on Wednesday (October 18), to review developments in the economy for the first half of the 2006/07 fiscal period. “Not in the period since I have been Minister, except for the first MoU, have we ever concluded negotiations in as short a time period as we have done this year,” he said. The first MoU was signed in February 2004, while the second (MoU II) was signed in May of this year.
Dr. Davies used the opportunity to congratulate State Minister, Fitz Jackson and his team for their role in finalizing the second agreement. “The wage settlements have turned out to be good settlements within the context of the inflation numbers,” he noted.
The Minister emphasized that in the past, negotiations with the public sector unions was “absolute chaos”, with the health sector alone having 27 bargaining units. “Essentially, we were always a few years behind in just trying to tie down (the various allowances). It wasn’t a very efficient way to either negotiate or to plan your budget,” Dr. Davies said. “The first thing the MoU has done is to bring some order to that whole system. Bringing the order meant that we could actually focus on the real issues. For example, the professional grouping which benefited most from the last MoU was the Nurses Association, because we were able to focus on some of the real issues, in terms of appointments and terms of service,” he explained. Secondly, the Minister said, in meetings with the leadership of the public sector unions each month, “we are able to leave the local issues behind and start discussing some of the most cerebral points, in terms of what is the type of public sector that we are aiming for”.
As part of this approach, he added, “we are developing training for some public sector workers, so that if and when they are released, there is an alternative. These are fundamental programmes which we are developing with the leadership of the trade union movement”. Dr. Davies pointed out that contrary to the belief that the public sector should be scaled down, more personnel are needed in a number of areas, and that the focus should be on improving the quality of service in the sector, instead of simply cutting numbers. “The type of persons may not be the correct mix, but we actually need more persons in the public sector – in early childhood education, nursing, and social services. So we need to stop looking at this question of numbers.what we need to do is examine how do we bring a higher quality personnel into the public sector. Because we all are crying out for better levels of service from the state,” he told journalists.Supporting this position, State Minister Jackson noted that more than two thirds of the public sector, “are in the areas where we need more people employed and it is for that reason that even in the MOU I, we had excluded containing expenditure in the education sector, security, and health sector. because we recognize that for the country to go forward, we need expansion, rather than any contraction”.
The MOU II provides an avenue for dialogue for the resolution of issues; pursues strategies to increase efficiencies and reduce costs; manages wage bill growth, allows for training, retraining and education of the labour force; and aims to fully integrate the cost of savings policy into the public sector.