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Prime Minister Bruce Golding says that the Government does not have the funds to increase the public sector wage bill beyond the current level.
“This is simple arithmetic we are talking about. The Government does not have any money to increase the public sector wage bill beyond where it is now. We have strained, we have squeezed, we have stretched to be able to accommodate the amount that is in the budget,” Mr. Golding said.
“There is no way that we can increase the wages for anybody this year, unless we are going to reduce the number of persons who are paid wages,” he told journalists at yesterday’s (Wednesday) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
Mr. Golding was reacting to statements from some trade unionists suggesting that his announcement of a wage freeze for public sector workers, in his broadcast to the nation Sunday night, was premature as there has been no agreement.
He explained that, if the Government were to grant the increases due to those workers this financial year, it would be forced to lay off approximately 1,000 workers for every additional $11/2 billion increase in the wage bill, or a total of 22,000 workers for the $34 billion due to them on April 1.
“That is what we have sought to avoid, because it would be tough and would be hard on workers,” he lamented.
“If it was during a time when the economy was enjoying some level of robustness, then you could probably contemplate a decision like that, because the economy would be in a position to absorb these people,” he explained.
He said that with no alternative jobs available, the Government decided that instead of sending the workers home to rent that cannot be paid, mortgages that cannot be serviced and children that cannot be provided for or sent to school, it was decided that it is something that should be avoided.
In the meantime the Prime Minister confirmed that Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson, will continue to lead discussions with public sector workers and their union representatives, so as to work out the best possible way to deal with the fiscal constraints facing the country.
“He is versatile enough and elastic enough to be able to handle that and deal with the new responsibilities that have been assigned to him,” Mr. Golding said.

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