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KINGSTON — Negotiations between the Government and the trade unions representing workers in the public sector are likely to resume next week.

Financial Secretary, Dr. Wesley Hughes, who is currently in Washington D.C. holding discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on issues related to the dispute, is expected back by week-end.

Prime Minister, the Hon Bruce Golding, is expected back from his current Washington D.C. trip on Friday (June 10). Mr. Golding is inthe United States for the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) International Forum on Caribbean Investment and Development (IFCID).

Dr. Hughes is to brief the Prime Minister, on his return, on the developments resulting from his talks. The salaries issue is expected to highlight Monday’s meeting of the Cabinet, after which Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator Arthur Williams, will convene a meeting to resume the negotiations with the unions.

Senator Williams confirmed yesterday that he has not met with the unions since the June 2 meeting which ended in, what he described as, a “stalemate”. However, he has since sent them the Government’s offers in writing and has received their responses, including counter-proposals.

“All I can say, at this point, is that the negotiations will resume after the Prime Minister and Dr. Hughes return,” Senator Williams said.

But, Minister with responsibility for information, telecommunications and special projects, Daryl Vaz, sounded very optimistic that the parties will be able to negotiate an amicable settlement very soon, when he addressed the issue at yesterday’s Post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.

Mr. Vaz suggested that the coming together of the unions in the sector on the issue would create an atmosphere for an agreement on a package that takes all matters into consideration, including the Government’s ability to pay.                  

“I am confident that the interest of Jamaica will take priority, and that there will be an amicable agreement in the coming days, based on where I sit,” Mr. Vaz told the briefing.

He noted that the dispute was not about the amount owed to the workers, but the timeline for payment, and he reminded journalists that the final agreement would have to be within a larger fiscal framework for long term economic achievements.

The Government has already committed $4.6 billion, in the 2011/12 budget, to meet some outstanding salary adjustments this fiscal year, including $2.5 billion to be paid to Government teachers in keeping with a ruling of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT), and $2.1 billion for outstanding wages and allowances for some other groups.

In addition, the Government recently offered to implement the outstanding seven percent wage increase by September 2011, with the amounts due from April being paid monthly, between September and next March.

In terms of the outstanding retroactivity amount for the two years of the wage freeze – April 2009 to March 2011–the Government assured the union leaders, that the full obligation will be met. However, Senator Williams explained Government’s inability to pay the $20 billion owed this year, and has proposed an extended payment period, to protect the gains made in the economy and to preserve its agreement with the IMF.

                                                                    

By Balford Henry/Douglas MacIntosh, JIS Reporter