News

No! Ministry rejects Opposition's suggestion

- for special wage negotiations for police

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 14, 2017

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THE Ministry of Finance and the Public Service says it has no intention of separating wage negotiations for the police from those involving other groups of public sector workers.

That was the response yesterday from minister of state Rudyard Spencer to the proposal made by Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Dr Phillips, who was responding to Prime Minister Andrew Holness's update on the activities in the first zone of special operations (ZOSO) in Mt Salem, St James, suggested that the Government move the security forces to the head of the line to improve the morale of the members.

I want to propose also that we seek to take out the wage negotiations for the security forces from the rest of the public sector wage negotiations. Let us put them at the head of the line. Let's deal with them now, so that they can have morale,” Dr Phillips said.

The Jamaica Police Federation is scheduled to resume wage negotiations with the ministry at its Heroes Circle offices today and Spencer, a former president of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) who has been leading the negotiations for the ministry, says he is looking forward to some fruitful discussions.

But he insisted that the ministry, could not accept Dr Phillips's proposals.

“It would be unfair to other public sector groups to remove the police from the wider negotiations and put them at the head of the line,” Spencer said.

The Jamaica Police Federation, which represents the rank-and-file members of the JCF, rejected the initial six per cent across-the-board offer for pay increases when they started negotiating with the ministry on August 28. The same offer has been made to other public sector unions, including the Jamaica Teachers' Association and the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), which is seeking a 60 per cent pay increase over two fiscal years 2017/18 - 2018/19.

The other unions have all rejected the ministry's offer.

Spencer told a press conference on the economy at the ministry two Fridays ago that the unions were aware that the offer is the Government's first response to their wage claims and promised other developments as the negotiations proceeds.

The Government is insisting that the increase must remain within a band to facilitate efforts to meet the Stand-by Agreement with the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) target for a public sector wage fund within nine per cent of GDP.

But, Dr Phillips, who had been the minister of finance under the previous Government's Extended Fund Facility agreement with the IMF, and who has been widely acknowledged for keeping a tight hold on government expenditure during that period to meet the nine per cent target, insisted Tuesday that the Government has to deal with the police's wages to increase morale within the force.

He said that this was especially so with the emergence of the ZOSOs as part of the Government's efforts to contain crime and violence.

“So, let's find it, especially as the minister of finance has been talking about the over-performance on the primary surplus,” he told the House of Representative.

Phillips also urged the Government to reinstate a $2-billion budget which he said was earmarked for the upgrading of the force in 2016, but which, he said, was not spent.

He also suggested that the Government “try and find” funding for motor vehicles and additional intelligence equipment necessary for the police to respond to crime in areas other than Mt Salem.

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