Government wants to block strikes

KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Jamaica government is planning to implement measures to avoid industrial action, in anticipation of workplace disruptions in the near future.

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles, said the government is concerned about the industrial relations climate.

“We have soundings from our oversight committees that there could be possible disruptions from various areas in the economy and the country as a result of the hard time and freeze on wages,” he said. “Come the next two weeks, during the Sectoral Debate, I will be making some revolutionary disclosures in an attempt to bring closure to the situations we are now facing with the unions, workers and employers.”

Charles said the measures will take into consideration how and when workers and employers can take industrial action.

“The measures are an attempt to bring closure to how you can strike, when you can strike, how you can lock out a labourer, how you can withdraw labour or how you can break a contract,” he said.

Charles said the Ministry of Labour is in dialogue with the unions and management with regards to how matters can be settled “because there is no need for any worker to have to strike, withdraw their services or for management to lock out a worker if a dispute arises”.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force, Island Special Constabulary Force, medical doctors and nurses and other public sector workers have been pressing the government for a wage increase and some of them have threatened industrial action.

However, Prime Minister Bruce Golding says his administration cannot afford to pay the seven per cent increase due to public sector workers under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed between the government and trade unions representing public sector workers.

The MoU had provided for a 15 per cent increase in wages from April 1, 2008 and for a further seven per cent increase as of April this year.

“We have had to say to the different groups that the country just cannot afford to provide a seven per cent increase to workers. The question of whether we can find the seven per cent wasn’t something up for negotiation, because we just can’t find it.

“We have been saying to the unions that we will honour all those who have not gotten their 15 per cent (for year one), since everybody else have gotten, then we will have to pay those. But, otherwise, we don’t have the money to pay the seven per cent,” Golding said.

The government announced a freeze on wages during the nation’s recently concluded Budget Debate.

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