JIS News

The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Government on Friday (April 2) that will see the more than 22,000 teachers agreeing to a wage restraint of three per cent for two years.
The signing took place at the Ministry of Finance and Planning, two months after Trade Unions representing public sector workers affixed their signatures to the Agreement.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, President of the JTA, Wentworth Gabbidon said that the teachers had agreed to make the sacrifice by endorsing the MOU, but at the same time raised concerns about the increases in goods and services and utilities.
“We have decided that in the interest of unity among the Trade Union movement and in the interest of building the economy that we would affix our signatures. We are concerned about the rise in prices, not just of goods and services but in particular utility rates, because when those go up they affect almost everything else,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “We are concerned also about what the private sector will do and we are making it public once again that having come out and endorsed the MOU, we expect to see tangibles coming from the private sector, that they support by committing to keeping prices at a reasonable level and even to the point of limiting the surplus of their profits”.
The JTA President also expressed concerns about the Government’s commitment to keep inflation at single digit and to pursue a fiscal deficit policy.
He also mentioned another crucial issue raised by the membership of the JTA – that of the repayment of money overpaid to teachers by the Ministry in error. “One of the expectations.. is that consideration be given to that particular group of teachers because it is very difficult for them now as it stands,” he argued. Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies also applauded the group for signing the MOU. He said the historic MOU had allowed the Government to put together an expenditure budget, which was $5 billion to$6 billion less.
“The administration is on trial not just in terms of fiscal year 2004/05 but in terms of the outturn of 2003/04. I would like to indicate that there will be some pleasant surprises in terms of the recovery that was made in 2003/04,” he said.
Dr. Davies said that the MOU had helped the Government to “step forward into 2004/05. This is going to be a challenging year but it is a challenging year with significant prospects for expansion in the economy.”
Discussing the private sector’s contribution, the Minister said, “there is a spirit within which a country can operate and I think that we all will be called upon during this period, in terms of operating within that spirit.”
He said, “that spirit must extend to the way in which we conduct business in the foreign exchange market, it must extend to a whole range of areas where we need to abandon each man for himself and recognized that there are sacrifices that have been made by the workers”.
Also applauding the JTA’s decision to endorse the MOU, Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry-Wilson said, “I am very happy based on the leadership of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association and the rational thinking of the members of the profession that they have decided to sign the Memorandum of Understanding”.

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