JAMAICA-Government urges public sector groups to settle wage agreements and teachers on industrial action.

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – Finance and Public Service Minister, Dr. Nigel Clarke, is reiterating a call for public sector groups that have not yet signed the new compensation scheme to settle wage agreements.

Clarke said that inclusive of amounts allocated in the first to fourth supplementary estimates, approximately J$79.4 billion (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) is provided for 2022/23 to pay the incremental amounts for the first year of the restructured compensation system.

“If these amounts remain unpaid over the next few weeks, meeting the fiscal balance targets required under our legislation does not leave room to accommodate these amounts in the next fiscal year.

“We already have a full trillion dollars of expenditure programmed for next year, inclusive of the second-year payments under the public sector compensation restructuring,” Clarke said, adding that “the space does not exist for the government to pay both the first year restructured salaries and the second year restructured salaries at the same time.”

The Finance and Public Service Minister said that for fiscal sustainability, “we will have no choice but to pay these amounts over several years commencing in the financial year 2024/25”.

Clarke said the Andrew Holness government had allocated J$10.2 billion for rank-and-file police officers, with an additional one billion for District Constables and J$600 million for members of the Police Officers Association, totaling J$11.8 billion.

The total amount allocated for junior doctors is J$6.4 billion.

“We want the doctors to receive the amounts in March 2023. We want to be in a position for these amounts to leaving the Consolidated Fund in March 2023. These amounts alone total J$30 billion, and this payment size cannot be accommodated in the upcoming fiscal year,” Clarke said.

The total sum for teachers is approximately J$12 billion.

“It is budgeted for. It sits waiting for you if you permit me, through agreement, to give it to you,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) is appealing to protesting teachers to resume regular duties on Friday. It seeks further discussions with the government on its wage offer under the new compensation scheme.

Teachers have been staging industrial action since Monday, and the JTA said negotiations are not usually entertained once “activities” by teachers may be interpreted as industrial action.

As such, the JTA is urging teachers to return to work to facilitate the resumption of the negotiations.

The JTA has already voted to reject the government’s latest wage offer and for the association to engage in talks on a better agreement.

“The union remains committed to securing the best compensation package for all its members and will work tirelessly. We urge all our colleagues to remain ready, resolved, and resilient,” the JTA added.

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