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The Government is preparing a medium-term strategy for public sector labour relations in order to manage wages, sustain and improve the quality of the public workforce, and increase workforce efficiency.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator Don Wehby, during his Sectoral Presentation in the Senate on Friday (Nov. 14), said the new strategy will include elements to expand the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) process to a wider segment of the workforce.
“Along with the public bodies, dealing with the public sector wage bill is one of the two most important areas of sustainable fiscal reform. Since the early 1990s the wage bill has mostly fluctuated in the range of 10 per cent -12.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with dips in 1995/96 and in 2005/06. There has been substantial volatility in real as well as nominal terms, as wages either lag behind inflation or catch-up to it,” he stated.
While admitting that the MOUs have played an important role in managing the growth of public sector wages, and have consolidated negotiations with the majority of unions, the Minister observed that substantial parts of the public sector workforce remain outside the formal scope of the MOUs, either out of choice or because of legal constraints.
“A medium-term strategy for public sector labour relations combined with further negotiations to limit the growth in the wage bill is critical. The latest MOU can be credited with the further consolidation of wage bargaining and harmonisation of benefits across a number of unions,” he pointed out.
Minister Wehby observed that the Jamaican economy had many weaknesses, which require urgent attention, including a high public debt, consistent fiscal deficits and low levels of economic growth. “Today’s world economic crisis only makes our challenges greater,” he noted.
The Minister expressed optimism that with strategic reforms, the country can overcome the challenges. He said that these reforms include, “rationalising public bodies, improving Central Government financial management and budget processes, increasing revenue collection, increasing growth and competitiveness and managing the public sector wage bill.”
Borrowing from United States President-elect Barrack Obama, Minister Wehby said: “together, we can achieve our goal – to build a platform for strong economic growth. I firmly believe if we pull together in the face of our adversities, we will successfully realise our 2030 Vision: ‘Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business’.”