Thousands of public sector employees staged disruptions, strikes last week to pressure govt. to fulfill promised compensation restructuring
KINGSTON, JAMAICA — Public sector workers have been increasing pressure on the government to follow through on its promised compensation overhaul for the sector, with thousands of employees staging disruptions like walking off their jobs last week.
Some public sector workers even engaged in a four-day strike, and another strike on an even larger scale was set to take place before the Ministry of Finance intervened.
Jamaica is just one of many Caribbean nations that has either been eyeing or introduced compensation changes for parts of its workforce within the last year.
Many governments and workers have acknowledged the increasing burden of inflation, promising workers to adjust salaries accordingly.
While Jamaican Minister of Finance and the Public Service Nigel Clarke early this year announced in the House of Assembly that the overhaul would begin as of April 1, he has since asked disgruntled public sector workers to bear with the government for six months as it works to fulfill the promised restructuring of the compensation scheme.
Public sector workers urged to be patient
In an Op-Ed published in the Jamaica Gleaner, Minister Clarke pleaded with public sectors to exercise patient for a compensation overhaul he described as long in the making.
He also defended the delay in having it done up to this point, highlighting the government’s need to be fiscally responsible as it moves to improve the compensation structure.
“With the support of public sector unions and the dogged determination of many, we are now within striking distance of the most profound and comprehensive structural changes to public sector compensation by any administration,” said Clarke.
“These changes are designed to simplify public sector compensation overall; improve transparency; increase equity and fairness; and improve compensation levels while retaining the sustainability of Jamaica’s finances.”
As he noted “we project to engage public bodies by November”, the minister pleaded, “We ask for patience.”
No public worker will be ‘worse off’
The minister also reiterated the government’s refrain that no worker will be left “worse off” after the compensation overhaul is completed.
“The blanket assurance, repeated over and over, [is] that ‘no public sector employee will be worse off,’” Clarke said.
He explained that by this he means “we expect thoughtful, analytic, rational, objective, reasoned and expeditious feedback” on the overhaul.
Additionally, he pledged that “where it can be proven that someone would indeed be worse off, we will endeavor to find a fix”.