Jamaica | Mar 10, 2023

Opposition blasts Government for bullying tactics

/ Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Julian Robinson proposes option to solve impasse over new public sector compensation plan

Julian Robinson, Opposition spokesman on finance.

Durrant Pate/Contributor

The Government has come under scathing criticism from the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP), regarding what it says are attempts at bullying public sector workers to sign on to the new public sector compensation restructuring plan before the end of this month.

This plan would see the 325 separate salary scales within the sector collapse into 16 bands, which introduces simplicity and efficiency. So far, about a handful of groupings of public sector workers have not signed on to the comprehensive pay restructuring exercise, namely the police, teachers, doctors, correctional officers, legal officers and fire fighters to name a few.

The Government has advised them that if they don’t sign by the end of the month then the billions of dollars in back pay owing cannot be paid this year but in future years starting in 2024-2025. In turning on the heat on the Government on this matter, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Julian Robinson is urging the Government to desist from its bullying tactics in seeking to force these public sector workers, who have not signed into submission.

Don’t bully public sector workers

In making his contribution to the 2023-2024 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday (March 9), Robinson emphasised: “Democratic politics says that you cannot treat workers with disrespect, and that you cannot bully your way into an agreement… . This restructuring exercise will affect people’s careers, their lives, and their livelihoods.”

He reminded that Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, in commenting on some public sector groupings not signing, had quoted an African proverb which states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Gordon House, the home of Jamaca’s Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament.

Robinson retorted: “It seems that when it comes to the public sector compensation situation, the Minister wants to go it alone, because his approach has left many public sector workers behind. If you plan for monumental change involving people, you need time to make changes, and tweaks, and generally to get it right.”

Continuing, the Opposition finance spokesman reiterated that “public sector workers are complaining that they are being pressured to sign agreements to meet a March 31 deadline”.

Said Robinson: “Why bully the workers? The changes being proposed are significant, and for some public servants, what happens now will affect their careers and earnings for years to come. Many of the 10 complaints we are hearing from the outstanding groups have to do with issues of equity, fairness, and the basis of their reclassification. These are legitimate issues that require thorough explanations, effective consultation, respectful communication, and humility in listening to the concerns of the workers and helping them to understand the changes.”

Robinson made a suggestion in which the parties could arrive at a consensus, proposing that the Finance Minister set aside funds using a contingency provision in the FY 2023-2024 budget to include amounts due to public sector workers in relation to increases related to the compensation review which should have been completed in 2022-2023.

The PNP finance spokesman reminded the Parliament that, in the 2022-2023 budget, a contingency provision was included to support new projects which are approved for implementation under the Public Investment Management System but are not yet on the budget.

Workers fighting for their rights

“The minister has a choice! I say to the workers fighting for their rights: don’t let them rush you. Ask your questions. Seek the answers. Minister, our public servants want to go far, not fast, and the only way to get there is if we all go together. Teachers work tirelessly and they are the ones responsible for the future of Jamaica. This impasse with the teachers we see today can be resolved through negotiation and discussion, but when you get around the table with the teachers, you need to be respectful,” Robinson said in conclusion.


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