KINGSTON — Jamaica's trade unions have re-affirmed their commitment to supporting the Government's public sector transformation programme to create a cost-effective and efficient public service that is capable of fulfilling economic and social development goals.
"We support reform or transformation initiatives, which are aimed at developing and delivering quality public services, making them more relevant to the needs of the citizens,” said Vice President of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), Helene Davis-Whyte.
She was speaking at a recent Public Sector Monitoring Committee (PSMC) seminar at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston under the theme: ‘A Partnership Approach to True Solutions.'
Mrs. Davis-Whyte, who is also General Secretary of the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers (JALGO), dispelled views from sections of the society that the unions are opposed to public sector transformation and reform.
“Some would…attribute to us, selfish goals, such as preservation of jobs and the status quo of our members. The record, however, reveal a totally different picture, because while the unions seek to protect their members’ interest, we are also willing to participate in the reform and transformation initiatives, as long as the goals and focus are in keeping with our thrust for the delivery of quality public services,” she stated.
She noted however that the unions would be opposed to any exercise that is solely intended to reduce the public sector wage bill.
"So, where some persons will get up in the society and say, ‘the answer to all the problems in this era of economic turmoil is just to go in and chop, because we need to make sure that we are able to meet a pre-determined number’, we, as unions, will not accept that approach,” she said.
Arguing that such an approach would not be feasible, Mrs. Davis-Whyte said a World Bank review of lending and other kinds of support for public sector reform, between 1999 and 2006, found that where civil service administrative reform focused on retrenchment, in efforts to reduce the wage bill, there was, invariably, failure to improve public administration.
The report said success was reached when increased focus was placed on human resource management reforms, such as merit-based recruitment and promotion, which, Mrs. Davis-Whyte argued, “should be the goal”.
“We, therefore, commend the approach of the public sector transformation team; an approach which is participatory, which involves a determination of the role of government and, in that context, determining the structure that will be best able to deliver efficient, cost-effective service to our citizens,” she said.
The two-day seminar formed part of efforts by the Government and trade unions representing public sector workers, to arrive at a consensus on the approach to be adopted in setting the parameters for public sector wages and conditions of employment.
Participants included members of the PSMC, permanent secretaries and heads of agencies, public sector employees, and representatives of the private sector.
By Douglas Mcintosh, JIS Reporter