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Jamaica: 31 Unions accept government’s four percent wage increase

By Douglas McIntosh

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – The number of unions representing public sector workers that have accepted the government’s four percent wage increase offer for April 2021 to March 2022, has risen to 31.

This follows the conclusion of talks between the ministry of finance and the public service and six additional bargaining units, to bring the total number of public sector employees covered to 80,000 or approximately 80 percent of the workforce.

The latest groups accepting are the Nurses Association Jamaica (NAJ); Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA); Association of Academic Staff at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (ASACASE); Jamaica Midwives Association (JMA); Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE); and Jamaica Association of Education Officers (JAEO), which represent a combined 10,000 workers.

Representatives of five Unions, the NAJ, JMDA, ASACASE, JMA, and UCASE signed agreements during a brief ceremony at the finance ministry in Kingston, on Friday, December 22. The documents were also signed by portfolio minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, and State Minister, Marsha Smith.

Dr Clarke said the signing was indicative of the “seriousness of purpose” with which the government is treating with the negotiations and public sector compensation in general.

He said the number of signatories at this stage of the current contract period was significant, noting: “I don’t think there’s a year in the recent past where we have had 31 bargaining units signing by December of that year.”

The minister pointed out the economic fallout caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which resulted in a number of countries being unable to either pay their public sector workers or increase their salaries. He noted that in other instances, there have been reductions in the workforce.

“We are, however, proud of the fact that though it is modest, the government of Jamaica could offer an increase and actually increased [it] during the course of the year, as the recovery got underway,” he said.

Dr Clarke also welcomed the level of social solidarity and consensus resonating among stakeholders, noting that while persons may not be “entirely thrilled” by the offer, “we understand what is good for ourselves, what is good for the country and, at the end of the day, we are all better off if the country is stable and has a degree of security.

“Now that we have gotten to 80,000 and we expect that number to increase, hopefully, even further shortly… our attention will turn to putting in place the steps that can allow for the beginning of the implementation of the Compensation Review,” he added.

The review is intended to overhaul the structure of salaries and other emoluments in the public service to make them more equitable.

NAJ president, Patsy Henry expressed gratitude to Dr Clarke for the invitation extended to negotiate the new agreement.

She said while a greater offer was anticipated by members, “we are looking forward to what the compensation review will bring”, while pledging their commitment and, by extension, that of other public sector groups to work with the ministry in undertaking the exercise.



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