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Thursday, March 7, 2013


BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter
Thursday, March 07, 2013  

PUBLIC sector trade union leaders yesterday settled for what minister of finance and planning Dr Peter Phillips described as a "supreme act of patriotism", and signed a new three-year heads of agreement with the Government.

The agreement includes a one-off payment of $25,000 per annum, payable in August of each year of the three-year contract, to all employees in the central and local government and other public sector entities.

This is an increase on the $15,000 one-off payment offered in an earlier heads of agreement proposed by the ministry in early February but was rejected by union leaders.

The decision to sign off on the second heads of agreement was reached at a meeting between minister without portfolio, Horace Dalley, at the finance ministry on Saturday, and the signing took place yesterday at Jamaica House.

Public sector unions which fall under the umbrella of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, including the Jamaica Civil Service Association, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, the National Workers' Union and the University and Allied Workers' Union, signed on at yesterday's ceremony. The signing attracted a number of Cabinet and junior ministers, as well as representatives of the public and private sectors.

Dalley last month described as "mischievous" a Jamaica Observer article which disclosed that the public sector union delegates had rejected a one-off payment of $15,000 per year, that would amount to $1,250 per month or $312 per week for the three years of the agreement. However, the new heads of agreement signed yesterday showed that he had withdrawn that offer and replaced it with the new $25,000 per year one-off offer, which has been accepted in the context of the total package.

One union spokesman told the Observer yesterday that they had found the second heads of agreement much more palatable, as it included assurances to deal with a number of pressing fringe benefit issues which they had been complaining about for years.

The unions' proposal that the $25,000 annual payment to the weekly paid workers be included in their pay packet was, however, rejected by the ministry. The ministry explained that this would impact the wage bill. A one-off payment, although a compensation cost, will not have the same impact.

The ministry accepted most of the changes to the heads of agreements proposed by the trade unions in response to the rejected February offer, re-entered some understandings with the unions which had been omitted from the first document, and agreed to some new proposals to placate the delegates.

The ministry also urged the unions to sign the new heads of agreement, in light of the concessions it made since, and "in the spirit of the negotiations".

Concessions in the new heads of agreement include a delay in the implementation of public sector pension reform to April 1, 2016; an increase in mileage allowance for travelling officers from $30 to $35, effective April 1, 2013, and to $40 effective August 1, 2013; a review of public sector salaries within the context of the Master Rationalisation Plan, during the wage restraint period; and that there will be no redundancies/separations in the sector during the life of the agreement, except as a result of natural attrition or voluntary separation as per contractual agreement.

Any separation outside of natural attrition or voluntary separation will be forwarded to the Public Sector Monitoring Committee for final approval prior to implementation.

Others included that no officer remains "acting" in a clear vacancy for more than six months; consideration to appointment and making pensionable, persons who have been temporarily employed for 10 years and over and are within five years or less of retirement; and discussions to continue on the classification of postal agents with a view to recognising them as bona fide employees eligible for entitlements similar to those given to classified employees.

The signing of the agreement is the final prior action by the Government that should pave the way for a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund.


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