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Public sector workers call off strike notice

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding
 
The 72-hour strike notice which was issued on behalf of public sector workers, has been withdrawn.
 
This follows talks involving the Finance Ministry and the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA).
 
A statement from Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke says efforts will be made to speedily resolve the 2021/2022 wage claim.
 
The JCSA has insisted that it wants the claim settled before the implementation of the compensation review. 
 
JCSA President Oneil Grant had warned that public sector workers would go on by strike midnight Monday if the outstanding wage issues were not addressed.
 
 
'Don't create a crisis'
 
Prime Minister Andrew Holness had again urged public sector workers on Friday not to create a crisis for Jamaica, warning that taking actions which impact the public revenue is not in their interest.
 
Mr. Holness, who was in St. James at the handing over ceremony for the Montego Bay Fire Station, spoke as tensions heighten between the government and workers over the compensation review exercise.
 
He noted that Jamaica has gone through a difficult restructuring of its debt and was only just beginning to make economic progress when it was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic followed by the war in Ukraine.
 
While those were external shocks, the Prime Minister said the country must be careful it does not create an internal shock. 
 
"Jamaica, through those two critical shocks, managed to stay stable, recovered our unemployment rate. We are now down to the lowest ever in our history at about... 6.2 per cent – the lowest in our history. Growth is starting to return, visitors are starting to come back, our children are going back to school. Those shocks were not of our making. We must not make shocks for ourselves," he urged. 
 
Amid criticisms about its supposed arrogance, Mr. Holness insisted the government's posture is not antagonistic, but it has to balance very complex equations to meet the expectations of the various public sector groups, debt service obligations and growth targets.
 
He said workers should not make the situation more complicated than it already is, but allow the negotiation process to work. 
 
"It is one pool of revenues and if we do anything to stop the flow of revenue into that pool, there will obviously be less for us to debate about how it is to be shared out. So whilst we have concerns, many of them genuine and legitimate, and they should be spoken of loudly, don't take action to stop the revenues from flowing into the pool which you will need to negotiate about. It is not in your interest to do it," he maintained. 
 
Wrong approach 
 
But the Parliamentary Opposition has criticised the Andrew Holness led administration over its handling of the public sector compensation review. 
 
People's National Party President Mark Golding believes the government has taken the wrong approach regarding negotiations with public sector trade unions. 
 
Citing the complaints of the JCSA, Mr. Golding urged Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke to "come off the high horse and be transparent and enter into proper discussions and negotiations with the representatives of the workers" to ensure the success of the public sector compensation review. 
 
He was speaking Thursday night at a divisional conference in Brown's Town, St. Ann.  
 


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