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After months of negotiations, the government and unions representing public sector workers have signed the second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU 2), which places a 20 per cent cap on wage increases for the 2006/08 fiscal year.
Amounts in excess of the 20 per cent would have to be approved by the Ministry of Finance and Planning.The agreement, which covers the 2006/08 negotiating period, includes a $500-million revolving loan fund to assist public sector workers to access tertiary education and training, as well as $50 million to continue a summer training programme to equip public sector workers to gain entrepreneurial skills.
Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies, speaking at the signing ceremony held at Jamaica House, emphasized that the new MOU went “beyond a wage agreement” and pointed “the way forward for a bigger agreement, and the forming of a social pact for all the various elements in the society”.
Furthermore, he said the agreement indicated “what was possible in terms of collaboration between different groups for the same objective of improved social and economic status for the people of the country.”
“We’re about human resource development; we’re about ensuring that every member of the public sector moves up in terms of competence, in terms of capability, because that’s not only what the public sector demands but what the new economy demands,” he added.
Meanwhile, President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association, Wayne Jones, praised the centralized bargaining component, which marked the discussions and suggested that this arrangement should be replicated in future negotiations.
He noted that while the new agreement provided for increases in wages and salaries, “extremely high value (had also been placed) on the non monetary benefits or developmental benefits”.
“We have been able to secure a significant benefit under the education and training portfolio of our agreement, because it is our firm belief that the salaries that people get have a direct link and connection to their academic and educational skills and competencies,” he stated.
Vice President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, Hopeton Caven, who spoke on behalf of President, Senator Dwight Nelson, said the MOU should be “a signal to rest of the society” to come together in the country’s interest.
“If we are serious about Jamaica and its people (we must) get together in the interest of Jamaica and put our shoulders to the wheel to try and forge a unity that will produce for the inarticulate and the dispossessed, a better way of life,” he noted, adding that, “it (was) not enough to pay lip service”.
The new MoU is the successor to the two-year agreement, which was signed in April 1, 2004 and expired on March 31. The agreement, which placed a three per cent cap on wage increases, save some 15,000 jobs.