Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, has welcomed the decision by private sector and trade union leaders to engage the Government in discussions aimed at addressing the economic challenges.
This comes as the administration moves to finalise a new financing agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Speaking at a Jamaica House media briefing on Thursday, February 14, during which he provided an update on the country’s economic programme, Dr. Phillips pointed out that the leadership of the private sector and trade unions requested the meeting, “because the pre-occupation of both groups has been ‘how do we, collectively, ensure that Jamaica does not get here again’. ”
“Given the quality of the discussions that have begun, and the willingness of each of those stakeholders to continue the discussions and to try to define commitments that each would make to Jamaica and to each other, and to demand of the Government, similar commitments …that, to me, is the direction of the future. I want to applaud the trade union leadership and the private sector leadership for being open to that kind of approach,” the Minister stated.
Meanwhile, Dr. Phillips said he is “heartened” by the level of understanding being displayed by the trade unions in relation to the status of salaries for public sector employees whom they represent.
The IMF has stipulated that the ratio of public sector salaries to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be reduced from the current level of approximately 10.5 per cent of the GDP, to nine per cent by the 2015/16 fiscal year.
“What that means is wage restraints and trade-offs. We have been in discussions with the unions and all I can say is that the leadership understands the national dilemma and is aware of the trade-offs,” he stated.
Dr. Phillips said he is particularly heartened by the mindset of the trade union leadership.
“As they [trade unions] have addressed the hard issue of the welfare of their membership, they have been equally concerned with the issue of how do we position Jamaica to grow and to have a different future as compared with the past experience. And, I think that that represents a very important development,” Dr. Phillips said.