JIS News

“We cannot make blood out of stone,” Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon Audley Shaw, has responded to criticisms of the Government’s position on pay increases for public sector workers.
“It’s not a statement of arrogance, it is a factual statement. Let’s start talking honestly to one another,” Mr. Shaw suggested to the trade unions, as he responded to questions at Wednesday’s Post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
The Minister was restating the Government’s position that it is unable to pay the outstanding seven per cent wage increase from the last Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), decrying what he described as the hysteria among some groups.
“Get real, get serious, let us understand that the situation that we are in is not something that is going to be solved by going into industrial action,” he urged the unions.
Mr. Shaw said that it was in this context that the government hopes to have fruitful dialogue with the unions, when the public sector monitoring committee, chaired by his junior minister, Senator Arthur Williams, gets underway in a few weeks.
He argued that the public sector should take into account the fact that larger, stronger economies across the globe were experiencing the same crisis as Jamaica.
“I don’t think that our public sector realises how stable we have been able to keep things. All across the world jobs are being cut, salaries are being cut and, in some cases, jobs and salaries are being cut. In Jamaica, we have sought to preserve the jobs in the public sector – and what we have sought to do, when we could do it, was to give a pretty decent increase,” he stated.
Mr. Shaw outlined that an overall increase of 15 per cent was given to the entire public sector in the first year of MoU III, and that it was the government’s intention to pay the remaining seven percent in the following year until the global financial meltdown struck.
“We couldn’t afford it. We had to go to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) for support and, better than that, not only did we give the 15 per cent increase to the entire public sector, we gave what was averaging close to a 60 per cent increase to our teachers and we gave at least a 34 or 35 per cent to the police,” he recalled.