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As civil servants OK 4% hike, JTA wary of inflation

Published:Tuesday | September 21, 2021 | 12:10 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

With the Government’s inflation target at risk of breaching the upper limit of six per cent over the next year, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) is sounding a note of caution that a four per cent salary increase for its membership is a non-starter.

Winston Smith, newly installed president of the JTA, told The Gleaner on Monday that if the Government plans to offer teachers a four per cent increase in salary this year, this would amount to a negative offer in real terms when inflation is taken into account.

President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), O’Neil Grant, told Radio Jamaica news that the association had decided to accept the Government’s four per cent salary increase offer.

The Government had first offered a 2.5 per cent increase to public-sector workers.

One-off payment

As part of the package to the JCSA membership, the Government will make a one-off payment of $40,000 to workers earning $1.5 million or less.

While admitting that teachers have not yet been called to the table at the Ministry of Finance to discuss their wages, Smith signalled that there are certain benefits that are critical to educators, especially at this time.

He said that for teachers to be effective during online teaching and learning, educators should be given laptops to carry out their duties.

Chairman of the Police Federation, Corporal Rohan James, said that the executive of the federation has been given a strict mandate by the rank-and-file members to take to the negotiating table with the finance ministry.

The federation is scheduled to meet today with officials at the finance ministry to begin wage talks.

“We believe that it is an injustice to the people of Jamaica that we, as a police body, are unable to allow for our members to be able to cater for themselves and their families at large and we want for this to be remedied once and for all,” James told The Gleaner.

Sending a clear message to the Government, James said that this was not a time to procrastinate, adding that a holistic approach should be taken to the issue of national security to include the long overdue salary compensation review that has been done by the Ministry of Finance.

The ministry has said that a long-standing compensation review for public-sector workers will be rolled out next year.

James urged the Government to treat the police as a priority group, noting that they are at the “forefront of national security fighting on behalf of the people of Jamaica to keep them safe”.

He said the federation is hoping that good sense will prevail in light of the special circumstances in which the police now operate.

While indicating that the union led by him was accepting the four per cent wage offer by the Government at this time, Kavan Gayle, president general of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), said this was a “holding position” for this year until the Ministry of Finance unveils its compensation review package to public-sector workers next year.

“What we did is to have some sort of a holding position this year to try and at best provide something for our members. This would include the four per cent and also a lump sum payment for the lowest paid categories as part of the package,” Gayle said.

The BITU boss told The Gleaner that the union will also be pushing the Government to provide permanent employment status to those workers who have been working in permanent roles but in a temporary fixed-term capacity.