On Wednesday, the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) and the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) formally signed off on an agreement for a public sector wage freeze until March 2015.
With this step, the Government passed one of the final hurdles to securing a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF),.
The Heads of Agreement for the 2012/2015-contract period, between the Government and public sector unions/associations representing the majority of public sector workers, was signed at Jamaica House during a function attended by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips .
O’Neil Grant, JCSA President, urged the unions who have not yet agreed to a wage freeze to do so. He said while he urged his members to make a sacrifice in the interest of the country, they stated that this is the last time they will be agreeing to a wage freeze.
“We have created an opportunity out of this crisis to correct the wrongs and to build the trust, and build the level of partnership not to go that route again,” Grant said.
JCTU Vice President Helene Davis Whyte revealed that getting the group’s membership to agree to accept a wage freeze was difficult but they acted in the interest of Jamaica and warned that the unions are watching closely to ensure that returns on their sacrifice are guaranteed.
Simpson Miller, hailed the civil servants and called on the country to “recognise in a special way, the huge sacrifice,” being made by the workers in the interest of Jamaica.
She thanked the unions, representing the workers, for putting Jamaica first. “No praise is too great for the leadership of the unions, who have demonstrated the highest level of patriotic responsibility and concern for national interest,” she said.
The unions have agreed to change their negotiating cycle from two to three years, along with a wage restraint from 2012 to 2015. This will mean a total of five years of wage containment in the country’s interest.
The Prime Minister said the restraint is critical to the Economic Reform Programme, and is a necessary precondition to securing an agreement with the IMF. “We have to balance our budgets, so we can balance people’s lives,” she said.
Approximately 20 public sector unions and associations were represented at the signing event.
On Tuesday, the Jamaica Police Federation and the Nurses Association of Jamaica indicated that they were not yet in a position to sign the deal.