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Clarke seeks to cool TAJ wage tempers

Published:Wednesday | February 8, 2023 | 2:34 AM
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.

Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) employees raised concerns on Tuesday about the Ministry of Finance’s roll-out of its controversial compensation review, noting in one instance that some people were paying more in taxes than what they were taking...

Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) employees raised concerns on Tuesday about the Ministry of Finance’s roll-out of its controversial compensation review, noting in one instance that some people were paying more in taxes than what they were taking home.

The employees also sought clarification on unofficial communication that there would be a reduction in some salaries to match the scales in central government and the discontinuation of travelling which, they say, is crucial to job functions.

Concerns were also raised about the level of authority given to TAJ workers without perceived commensurate compensation.

The issues emerged in an online meeting with Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke, who listened to grievances and pledged to action solutions.

The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, had more than 1,000 participants.

“I am not consumed by the scales. I am consumed by the calculations. What position will it put us in at the end of the day?” one employee, who is a representative at the Jamaica Civil Service Association, said.

“I am also concerned that [with] our responsibility as the main collector of taxes in Jamaica, we’re seeing the authority on paper, Minister, but the compensation is not reflecting that,” she said.

TAJ employees average 50 to 60 per cent more than central government employees, the meeting was told, but will now have to re-enter the salary structure under the new compensation system with pay reverting to central government scales.

“If it is that we had already gone through a reform and the salaries were already positioned in such a way because of empirical data … why is it that we are being reverted, or there are arguments to suggest that we are not of any greater importance as the other central government bodies?” the employee questioned.

However, Clarke said that while the TAJ is key to revenue collection and was worthy of adequate compensation, there are many other roles in Government that are also critical.

“We can’t have sort of a lopsided structure stay in place for a very long time,” Clarke said.

He said that in previous years, with available resources, the Government of the day was able to ensure that TAJ employees were prioritised.

“But it’s not sustainable to have a 50 per cent gap between TAJ and the rest of Government indefinitely. That’s not a sustainable position, because it will mean that we can’t fill positions elsewhere,” he said, vowing to address any anomalies.

At the same time, he said that the meeting was called for him to provide policy assurance that no worker would be worse off under the new system.

“We’re going back with pen to paper and make sure that those policy principles are embedded in whatever numbers come to you officially,” the finance minister said.