The New Year - 2018
Happy New Year!
We would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! We have exciting updates that you should look forward to, and the overdue report on the 7th Assembly of Caribbean Peoples will be published soon.
Public Sector Wage Disputes
2018 is not a happy new year for everyone, as public sector workers are still struggling for better wages from the government. Of course, our government has its hands tied by the IMF; the IMF requires the government to maintain a budget surplus over 7%, and to keep public sector wages below 9% of our GDP.
The way that the government treats its employees is unacceptable. We stand in solidarity with our nurses and teachers in their struggle for higher wages, and hope to see their unions coordinating their protest action together instead of separately. Unions can be more effective when they work together; otherwise, the government may choose to play one against the others.
We would also like to express concern about regulations which affect rank and file members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force; they can be fined $250,000 or end up spending months in jail if they choose to resign without giving 6 months notice. We are displeased, however, about the attitude of the JCF's representatives towards the current wage negotiations, expecting that the Finance Minister "would separate them from other public sector groups" as if to give them special treatment.
The situation with crime is appalling. Despite the government's presentation of the "Zone of Special Operations" (or "ZOSO") legislation as some panacea for crime, 2017 has been the 3rd most murderous year in Jamaican history. There has been a 20% increase in murders from the previous year.
2018 itself is off to a bloody start. In the first 3 days, the murder tally already reached a double-digit number. With ZOSO being a miserable failure, the government has offered no real solutions to tackling crime.
Simply preaching against violence, as the Prime Minister suggested, will not work. It is an empty call and a cheap PR tactic, like most things done by the JLP government, where solid policies and effective measures are lacking. We have a National Security Minister who has been barely visible, but flashed his feathers when a traffic pileup became a popular topic on social media.
There is no problem in working with churches to tackle crime, but the Prime Minister's press release isn't hinting at that at all. Is the government equipping churches with the necessary tools to teach conflict management and to intervene in abusive family situations in a way that ensures a victim's safety?
Is the government going to provide any form of material support for community-based projects like homework centres, community associations, community gardens, or anything similar that churches could facilitate? Some churches already facilitate some of these things, but is the government going to actively work with churches to do them?
Also, the problem of abuse within the churches themselves goes unaddressed. A pastor can preach against sexual violence and still be abusing children. We all know that there is too much violence in the family and the country, so Holness isn't teaching the churches or anyone else anything new.
Not everyone is connected to the church, and the church isn't a state institution that can be held accountable for failing to tackle crime. The government, which is its own collection of institutions, needs to present solid policies and measures to tackle crime; we don't actions, not meaningless words.
We would "call on the government" to start properly serving the people, but we know better; we know that the government only listens to the IMF and the handful of politicians' friends in the private sector.