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KINGSTON — The Government is to engage unions representing public sector workers in discussion regarding staffing costs over the medium-term.

This was disclosed by Minister with Responsibility for the Public Service, Senator Arthur Williams, during a statement on July 15, 2011 in the Upper House.

Senator Williams informed that a critical component of the Stand by Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the reduction of the wage bill as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in order to end up at a wage bill/GDP ratio of nine per cent by the end of the financial year 2015/16.

“The discussions with the representatives of the public sector workers must proceed apace and must revolve around six main areas, which are determined to be critical to achieving the objectives,” he stated.

Among these are the reform of public sector leave and pension arrangements, and the development of a new compensation negotiating cycles and procedures.

In respect of public sector pensions, a Green Paper on Public Sector Pension Reform is scheduled to be tabled in Parliament shortly.

According to Senator Williams, discussions will take place with unions within the context of the Government’s fiscal target outlined in the fiscal policy paper for 2011/12, which states that April 2010 to March 2012 must be a period of overall public sector wage restraint.

“Also, that the productivity-based collective bargaining agreement covering the period April 2012 to March 2014 be agreed on, within the context of Government’s ability to pay and that specific concrete proposals be presented to Cabinet on ways to grow the GDP, which must include productivity improvements, efficiency measures and active labour market policies designed to create value-added to the economy,” the Minister said.

Senator Williams also reiterated the Government’s commitment to promoting social dialogue as a means of building consensus among the main stakeholders in the public sector.

“The Public Sector Monitoring Committee represents a successful social dialogue structure and process that has the potential to resolve important economic and social issues, encourage good governance, advance social and industrial peace and stability and boost economic progress,” he stated.

 

By LATONYA LINTON, JIS Reporter