KINGSTON — Cabinet is expected to take another look at the issue of the outstanding salaries for public sector workers when it meets on Monday at Jamaica House.
In the meantime, Minister of State for Finance and the Public Service, Senator Arthur Williams, says that he will be sending formal copies of the Government’s most recent offers to the unions, which were introduced to them at a meeting on Thursday at the Ministry.
Senator Williams says that the initial response from the unions has resulted in a stalemate, but says that he hopes good sense will prevail in light of the commitments the Government have, including meeting some outstanding salaries and allowances payments to the sector.
He noted that the Government has committed $4.6 billion, in the recently approved 2011/12 budget, to meet outstanding salary adjustments this fiscal year, including $2.5 billion to be paid to Government teachers, and $2.1 billion for outstanding wages and allowances for other groups.
In a statement on the issue, Senator Williams said that arising from Thursday’s meeting with public sector union leaders, the parties have come to a “stalemate”.
He explained that the Government had intimated to the unions its intention to seek to end the wage freeze one year earlier than had been planned. This was in view of Government’s recognition of the hardships being faced by public sector workers. Accordingly, the Government initiated discussions with the union leaders and held several meetings with them over the past three weeks.
“The Government at the meeting held today, proposed that the 7 percent wage increase be implemented in September 2011, with the amounts due for April to August 2011 being paid monthly between September and March next year,” the Minister said.
“The Union leaders have rejected this, and demanded that the wage increase be implemented in August, with the amounts for April to July also being paid in August.
“In respect of the amount outstanding for the two years of the wage freeze – April 2009 to March 2011–the Government responded to the insistence of the union leaders, that the full obligation be met. The Government however explained its inability to pay the amount due, except over an extended period, in order to protect the gains made in the economy and to preserve its agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
“Accordingly, the Government proposed to pay the two years arrears, amounting to approximately twenty billion dollars over the five-year period, beginning April 2013 through to March 2018, at the rate of four billion dollars per year.
“The union leaders have rejected this and are insisting that payment of the full amount, approximately twenty billion dollars, be made between June and December, 2012,” the Minister’s statement said.
By Balford Henry, JIS Reporter & Editor