Salary MOU signed without half of Jamaica’s unions

KINGSTON, Jamaica, April 21, 2008 – It didn’t have the support of half of the island’s trade unions, but a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covering the salary package for public sector workers over the next two years has been signed between the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) and the Bruce Golding government.

Only six of the 12 unions under the JCTU umbrella have agreed to the 22 per cent increase.

The Union of Clerical Administrative and Supervisory Employees, the Police Federation, the Jamaica Teachers Association, the Nurses Association of Jamaica and the Union of Schools Agricultural and Allied Services said the increase is not enough.

The MOU, which covers the 2008 to 2010 period, will see upwards of 20,000 public sector employees, represented by member unions of the JCTU, getting increases of 15 per cent in the first year, and seven per cent in the second.

Those who have refused to agree to the MOU will have to negotiate separately.

But lead government negotiator Senator Dwight Nelson said government will not go any higher than the offer already offered and agreed to by the JCTU.

“Whether you have signed or not, you are going to get what the Confederation has agreed to,” he said.

Meantime acting President of the JCTU, Wayne Jones, said although the deal was not what the Confederation wanted, it was the best it could get in the circumstances.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding said the MOU was important because of the order and discipline which it brings to industrial relations within the public sector, noting that there were some 33 bargaining units and some 44 non-unionised groups within the civil service.

“If we were ever to consider to attempt to conduct isolated negotiations, first of all it would have been completely beyond our institutional capacity. But apart from that, it would be dysfunctional. Therefore, this Memorandum of Understanding provides a canopy under which agreements with various units can be struck, and we hope that in the talks that will have to continue with particular groups, that this framework will be respected, given the considerations that went into its finalisation,” he said.

Mr Golding added that the signing was the culmination of many months of “quiet (and) intense negotiations”.

He said the agreement is important “because it provides, not just a framework that will determine compensation packages for public sector workers, but it represents a co-operative agreement which will strengthen the performance of the public sector”.

“It is designed to address issues such as productivity improvements, and improvements in service delivery,” the prime minister said.

More importantly, he said the MOU represents “trust and confidence between negotiating parties” without which the agreement would not have materialised.

Mr Golding also announced a decision by Cabinet that, in reviewing salary increases to Parliamentarians, whatever was negotiated and agreed on in the MOU, would be applied accordingly.

“It (decision) is rooted in something that we consider to be important, that as Parliamentarians, moreso as government, we must never do for ourselves what we are not in a position to do for the workers over whom we have charge and it’s a principle that is going to guide us right throughout this administration,” he said.