Sunday 26 January, 2020

IMF targets in focus as JTA, police again reject wage offer

Finance Minister, Audley Shaw... facing militant teachers and striking cops.

Finance Minister, Audley Shaw... facing militant teachers and striking cops.

The budgetary risks feared by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a result of the protracted wage talks taking place between the Government and public sector workers may have heightened after representatives of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) walked out of their meeting with officials of the Ministry of Finance on Monday.

Finance Minister, Audley Shaw, was present and participated in the meeting.

The sticking point continues to be the six per cent salary increase being offered over two years by the Government.

The last scheduled meeting between the two parties having been postponed from December 5, the 22,000-strong JTA, representing the island’s public school teachers, was hoping for a significantly improved offer from the Administration, but that hope was dashed.

In a statement on Monday evening, the JTA said: “we are very disappointed that the offer has not changed.”

The association said Minister Shaw has indicated that he will have consultations with the Cabinet on specific items of the claim ahead of a meeting scheduled for December 20 at 10:00 a.m.

On Friday, the IMF reiterated its concern about the slow pace of public sector wage talks, this following a four-day visit to Jamaica by an IMF team.

A statement issued at the end of that visit warned that continued delay in the public sector wage negotiations posed significant budgetary risks for Jamaica.

While several other groups, including nurses and the police, have also rejected the six per cent offer, the Government seems unlikely to budge from its position as it moves to bring the public sector wage bill to within nine per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2018-2019, an IMF stipulation under the ongoing agreement between the fund and the Jamaican Government.

In the meantime, rank and file police personnel on Monday also voiced disapproval at the salary offer, with many reportedly calling in sick on day one of a reported two-day sickout

Despite the protests, the IMF has repeated that wage containment is critical to allow for the release of resources for much-needed social and growth-centred spending.

The IMF team also pointed to the need to reduce the public sector while making it more efficient.

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