JIS News

The Government and the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) which represents public sector employees, on Monday (Feb. 16) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to among other things, facilitate wage, employment and expenditure restraints in the public sector over the next two years, as well as provide a structured framework for future dialogue between the Government and the Unions.
In his remarks, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson had high praises for the MOU noting that it was not occasioned by work stoppage or industrial dispute, but rather, a recognition by both parties of the value of meaningful and serious dialogue. He said the decision by the Government and the Unions not to disclose elements of the discussions during the negotiating period, is evidence that both sides were serious about arriving at a solution in their mutual interest and that of the nation as a whole.
“Many were the temptations which persons on both sides had to resist and it is not only the Trade Unions that were subject to abuse for concealment,” Mr. Patterson said. He added, “you must be able to talk frankly and in confidentiality the one to the other, without being misinterpreted by the press or those who have a common interest in wrecking the negotiations.”
Mr. Patterson urged unions that had not yet signed the MOU not to undermine what it was seeking to engender as this could have economic and social consequences.
The Prime Minister said Jamaicans should be able to take decisions which affect their future without the dictates or imposition of any other authority that would seek to prescribe policies for the advancement of the nation, adding that the signing of the MOU was a significant step in this regard. “Because, no one can have the interest of the Jamaican people more at heart than we ourselves who belong to Jamaica,” he asserted.
Mr. Patterson stated that the signing of the MOU was the culmination of a process initiated several years ago to secure a social contract, adding that it was a precursor of things to come. “It behoves the private sector to also be engaged in some Memorandum of Understanding that will foster and promote the partnership necessary to embrace the whole nation,” the Prime Minister said.
Prime Minister Patterson stressed that the political directorate would be leading by example and would be bound by the wage restraint for the period 2004/2006. He said while some of the recommendations in terms of Parliamentary salaries might be accepted in principle their implementation would have to be deferred.
“The Parliamentary Salaries Review Committee recommended an increase in the differential between Ministers and the Prime Minister. This Prime Minister will not be seeking that differential to be put in place,” Mr. Patterson stated.
He stated that in addition to the restraint on wages and expenditure, the MOU also addressed issues relating to the improvement of efficiency, production, training and the building of intellectual and human resource capabilities in the public sector, as these areas are of equal interest to both sides.
“I trust that as we open a new chapter in the life of our nation we are going to give a signal which is clear and unmistakable, that the former days of fighting with each other are over and that we have forged a partnership where we are going to work with unity and singleness of purpose to enable Jamaica to move into the first world,” the Prime Minister concluded.
Highlights of the Memorandum of Understanding include a general policy of wage restraint in the public sector for the period April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2006; a general policy of employment restraint with the exception of critical groups and the implementation of cost saving measures throughout the public sector. The Partners have also agreed that the rate of inflation would be maintained within targeted bands of eight and nine per cent in fiscal year 2004/2005 and, six and seven per cent in fiscal year 2005/2006.
A monitoring and evaluation committee comprised of representatives of the Government and the JCTU has been established to ensure that the Partners adhere to the spirit and intent of the MOU.
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, the Minister of Finance and Planning Dr. Omar Davies, Attorney General Senator A.J. Nicholson and Minister of Labour and Social Security Horace Dalley were among those signing on behalf of the Government. Among those signing on behalf of the Unions were Senator Dwight Nelson, Vice President of the JCTU and Mr. Wayne Jones President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association.
Attending the historic signing were Cabinet Ministers, Heads of Government agencies and departments and representatives of the Trade Union Movement. Also in attendance were Dr. Enrique Iglesias President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and other officials of the IADB.

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