JIS News

The Senate yesterday (Feb. 20) gave its full support to the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between government and the trade unions representing public sector workers.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator A.J Nicholson who opened the floor on a motion for adjournment, stated, “through the march of history and in particular, Jamaica’s modern history, stretching back to 1938 at Ward Theatre, when leaders of workers in Jamaica and leadership in other areas in Jamaica came together to forge a moment forward together, up to today, a number of significant milestones have been reached and crossed”.
He added: “History will come to record, and Jamaicans yet unborn will come to appreciate what took place between the leadership of workers in Jamaica and the government. This MOU has to prove to be a point of departure and we must make it work”.
The Justice Minister who was a signatory to the agreement said there had to be a platform from which to build and that it was full time that an atmosphere be created in Jamaica within which the nation could build together. He pointed to Ireland and Barbados as countries, which had within the past 15 years made significant strides by building social partnerships.
“We must create an atmosphere in which Jamaica’s positive energy is placed at the fore. The time has come for us to stop, look and listen to the voices that are saying sit down and create this positive energy. I feel humbled to have been given the opportunity to sign that Memorandum of Understanding.
I feel especially proud to have been able to pen my name to that MOU and it is something that I will never forget,” he declared.
Senator Nicholson said that the agreement sought to take Jamaica to a higher level, and must be seen as a platform for the moving away from differences to finding those areas in which consensus could be reached.
“It beckons us to a path that moves away from considering only the negatives and the differences to a path whereon we can find a together way forward” Senator Nicholson noted.
State Minister in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Senator Deika Morrison also lent support to her colleague, pointing out that even though the agreement was signed with the public sector, there was need for general support, as every single person in the country would be affected by the agreement.
“There is a lot of focus on the wage restraint, but it also speaks of the establishment of cost saving committees in every agency of government; expenditure restraint on the part of government; training and retraining of workers; collaboration and consensus building,” Senator Morrison stated, stressing that the MOU showed “vision, commitment, patriotism and a tangible example of hope, not only of the nation, but the development of people in this country. The document is about how we can begin to help ourselves, rather than pointing fingers”.
Meanwhile Opposition Senator and Vice President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Dwight Nelson explained to his colleagues, “when a trade union leader demand increases in the salaries and benefits of the workers he or she represents at that company and the company says to that leader, here is my balance sheet, my profit and loss statement and my trading accounts, this company cannot afford to provide the increases you demand, that trade union leader has one of two choices. He can say to the company, the workers I represent work hard, the results of your company are not the workers fault and therefore we reject your position and maintain the demand”.
Senator Nelson pointed out that invariably, the employer would be forced to accede to demands to reduce expenses and inevitably, production would be affected and the worker would be “thrown out of the company on the unemployment heap”. The result, he stated, was depression and family suffering as well as negative effects on communities as a whole. “Or that union leader can take an alternate path and sit down and find a way out so that ultimately both the employer and the worker can benefit,” he said.
“The workers of this country, since 1865 when the first strike occurred with the Morant Bay rebellion have always made sacrifices for the good of their fellow men and they have made yet another sacrifice. This is not an event. It is the start of a process,” Senator Nelson emphasized, adding, “it is a process which seeks to establish a mechanism for dialogue and consensus”.
Continuing, he said: “it is a process, which seeks to establish trust and confidence, two vital elements that are missing in the industrial relationship between employer and employee. We recognise that it is a hard price to pay, but this is an understanding that calls for sacrifices and commitment from both the employer and the employee”.
He said public sector workers had made these sacrifices because they wanted to exist in a context where there was efficiency, productivity, and ultimately adequate reward. “The public sector workers are tired of being referred to as indolent, non productive and time wasters. They want to evolve to a situation where they are part of a public service that is trained, educated, efficient, properly equipped and well-rewarded,” he stated.
The document was signed on February 16 by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, the Attorney-General, Senator A.J. Nicholson, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Horace Dalley, Senator Dwight Nelson, Vice President of Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), among others.
Under the MOU, wage contracts to come into effect during the period April 1, 2002 to March 31, 2004 and for which there have not yet been any arrangements are to be settled strictly within a wage bill increase of three per cent.
Further details of the document can be accessed at www.jis.gov.jm or go directly to: http://www.jis.gov.jm/special_sections/MemorandumOfUnderstanding.pdf

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