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KINGSTON — The Government and unions representing public sector workers today July 7, 2011 signed the Heads of Agreement for the payment of the outstanding seven per cent salary increase and retroactive payments owed to civil servants.

Speaking at the signing ceremony at the Office of the Prime Minister, Minister with responsibility for the Public Service, Senator the Hon. Arthur Williams said that the discussions and deliberations during the 27-month negotiation period were conducted in an atmosphere of friendship and of mutual respect.

“Where we are today is a testimony to the understanding of both sides, because the wage freeze was instituted at a time when the government had no option and the workers of Jamaica, the public sector workers understood what the country faced, and made their sacrifice,” he said.

Senator Williams pointed out that Minister of Finance, Hon. Audley Shaw, had indicated to the union leaders that the government would be in a position to end the wage freeze, which was instituted in 2009.

Chairman of the Island Special Constabulary Force Association (ISCFA), Special Inspector, St. George Jackson, said that just about 126,000 public sector workers have benefitted from the agreement.

He agreed that the negotiations were conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect, noting that many lessons were learnt over the protracted period.

“(Those involved) in the industrial relations engagement, have learnt to be “better managers in industrial relations, relative to communications and collective bargaining,” he noted.

He commended Senator Williams for “accommodating our approaches as we aggressively pursued our task and amicably concluded this matter,” adding that in the interest of the nation, the group ensured that they did not disrupt public service during the negotiation period.

General Secretary of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Wayne Jones, also pointing to lessons learnt over the period, contended that social dialogue is the best approach in arriving at collective decisions.

“We, in the Confederation of Trade Unions, are committed to the principles of social dialogue, which is why over the two and a half years, we maintained that we were going to use the bargaining table as the process to get to a finalisation of the dispute,” he said.

He noted that during the negotiation period, the trade union movement continued to push for quality public services. “We have maintained our mantra of quality public service is a right for all, and against that background, we have ensured that we did not behave disruptively,” he stated.

Under the agreement, the seven per cent wage increase, due from 2009, will take effect on the regular pay day in September, 2011 including one month of the retroactive payment due for the five-month period April to August 2011.

The retroactive amounts, for the other four months, will be paid in December, 2011.

The outstanding amounts for the two years, 2009 to 2010, and 2010 to 2011, totalling $21.1 billion, will be paid in five equal installments of $4.22 billion in May and October, 2012; May and October, 2013; and May, 2014.

 

By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter