Cabinet retreat begins at Jamaica House today

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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A Cabinet retreat, which begins at Jamaica House today and is scheduled to end on Friday, will look at the several current issues, including the public sector wage dispute and national security, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has confirmed.

OPM spokesman, Robert Nesta Morgan, also noted that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has had telephone conversations with leaders of various bodies representing the employees, and has assured them that the matter will be carefully examined at the retreat.

The Jamaica Observer has also learnt that the Government may start looking at shoring up some of the fringe benefits enjoyed by its employees in an effort to get a settlement.

The retreat will also look at a number of other major issues, including the current murder numbers, public sector transformation, and recent damage caused by flooding in several rural parishes.

The unions are awaiting a response from the Cabinet following the breakdown of talks at the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service over the Government's wage offer of six per cent over the expected 24 month period of a new labour agreement.

The unions have claimed a 60 per cent increase over the 24-month period. However, the Government has insisted that it has to meet a commitment to the International Monetary Fund to reduce the public sector wage bill to nine percent of gross domestic product by March 31, this year.

Rank-and-file members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force — some of whom were on sick-out recently — the Jamaica Teachers Association, the Nurses Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Civil Service Association, and the 11-union umbrella group, Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, have all rejected the wage offer and have indicated a possibility of industrial action to force the government's hands in the negotiations.

The last agreement between the Government and the unions ended on March 31, 2017, and a new agreement should have been implemented from April 1, 2017.

— Balford Henry

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