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Peter Phillips wants to play games with fragile wage negotiations

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, January 07, 2018

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Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. — Will Rogers

Perhaps the greatest affliction of the current 79-year-old People's National Party (PNP) led by 68-year-old Peter Phillips is its addiction to hypocrisy. The birds tweet that Phillips is on borrowed political time. The Banana Quits shriek that some in the inner sanctum of Norman Manley's party are comparing Phillips's deadpan public image to that of the outgoing Liberian Vice-President Joseph Boakai, who an AFP report last December said “earned the unfortunate title of 'Sleepy Joe' for his propensity to fall asleep at public events”. (AFP, December 26, 2017)

Some weeks ago I wrote, among other things: “Dr Peter Phillips is under severe pressure within his party to make a greater impression on the country's electorate, in particular the youth. The severity of the internal party squeeze on Phillips is getting tighter by the day. Phillips is a caged political animal. Three younger lions are circling his pride. Phillips's fear for his life and his cubs is conspicuous.” ( Jamaica Observer, December 10, 2017)

The birds sing that discontent in the PNP is near boiling point. The Banana Quits, Black-Bellied Plovers and John Chewits warble that the following social media posts are but the tip of the iceberg:

Roshedo_ @Sheedz1nOnly: @Sheedz1nOnly One quick question.... Is there ever going to be an Election for the PNPYO? Cause I won't lie, this is very questionable... but somebody link me with answers b4 I start blowing up twitter and making enemies.

SW ST BESS COMRADE: That's the new pattern of the former democratic PNP and PNP youth arm. One thing for certain a general election is due in a few years and the JLP is poised to take it by virtue of who's leading PNP & PNPYO. Reality check!

More Anon!

The birds were right!

In The Agenda of December 10, 2017, I wrote, inter alia: “The Black-Bellied Plovers, Banana Quits, and John Chewits are also singing of advanced plans by one group to trigger rolling strikes before the end of 2017.” On Monday, December 11, 2017, the Old Lady of North Street carried this headline: 'Corporate Area court impacted as rank and file police on 'sick-out' '

The story said, among other things: “Several rank and file police personnel have failed to show up for duties at the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court in a reported sick- out.

“The Half-Way-Tree Police Station, located adjacent to the court building, was also short-staffed as dozens of policemen and women failed to show up for work.

“According to police sources, the no-show is part of a wider protest by rank and file members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

“However, chairman of the Police Federation Sergeant Raymond Wilson says he is not aware of any protest.”

Since then the country has seen increased reports of 'illness' by the police and threats of industrial action by other public sector groups.

Rank political opportunism

Most Jamaicans would agree that public sector workers deserve higher salaries. The million-dollar question is: Can the Government afford to pay the increases which are being demanded by the unions at this time?

Dr Phillips and the PNP seem to believe that the Government can: “Noting that he is fully aware of the need to lower the wage bill, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips is, however, calling on the Government to 'wheel and come again' and be more warm-hearted towards public sector workers during the ongoing wage and salary negotiations.” ( Observer, December 18, 2017)

Can Dr Phillips be taken seriously against the background of what he and the previous Administration said, did, and threatened to do to public sector workers while he was minister of finance and de facto prime minister?

Recall, 'Gov't secures court injunction barring further police protest, warns of contempt possibilities'. This screaming The Gleaner headline of June 3, 2015 is instructive.

The story said, among other things:

“The Government has obtained a court injunction barring the police from further protest action that would see them off the job.

“In a statement issued around midnight, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson said the injunction is against the executives of the Jamaica Police Federation and all its members.

“He also warned that their failure to comply with the terms of the Supreme Court Order will result in their being in contempt of court and liable to having their assets being confiscated.

“ 'The Attorney General of Jamaica wishes to advise that an injunction was tonight obtained from the Supreme Court against the executive members of the Jamaica Police Federation and all members of the Federation.

“ 'Pursuant to the order of the court permitting the order to be broadcast over a commercial broadcasting system operating in Jamaica, or by publication in at least one daily newspaper circulating in Jamaica, the Attorney General now publishes the terms of the order as follows:

“ '1. The respondents be appointed to represent the members of the Jamaica Police Federation.

“ '2. The respondents be restrained from continuing any industrial action in the form of withholding their services or otherwise.

“ '3. The respondents and all the members of the Jamaica Police Federation be restrained for a period of twenty-eight (28) days from causing and/or attempting to cause and/or carrying out acts to cause disaffection amongst the members of the constabulary force and/or inducing and/or attempting to induce and/or carrying out acts to induce members of the constabulary force to withhold their services.

“ '4. A mandatory injunction instructing the members of the force who are withholding their services by way of sick-out and/or other industrial action to report for their shifts/for work as and when scheduled or due to do so until further order of the court or for a period of twenty-eight (28) days whichever is earlier.

“5. The order herein be published, either by broadcasting same on at least two separate occasions over a commercial broadcasting system operating in Jamaica, or by publication in at least one daily newspaper circulating in Jamaica and that this be deemed service of notice of the said order on the respondents and all the said members of the Jamaica Police Federation.”

“6. The application will be further considered by the court on the 18th day of June 2015 at 10:00 a.m. or so soon thereafter as counsel may be heard.

“ 'The Attorney General reminds the executive and membership of the Jamaica Police Federation that failure to comply with the terms of the Supreme Court Order will result in them being in contempt of court and liable to having their assets being confiscated.' ”

Dr Phillips, maybe because of political amnesia, might have also forgotten these remarks which he made in a national broadcast on June 16, 2015. These snippets are again instructive.

“Unfortunately, there are still many of us who do not make the link between the reduction of the debt and the public sector wage bill, and the ability of the Government to provide the social services and capital investments which will allow the country to progress and improve the quality of life of all Jamaicans. As a result, some continue to express the view that we should seek to borrow more money in order to pay wage increases. What the Government has offered in the wage negotiations is what we can afford at this time.

“While we appreciate the demand for a higher rate of wage increases, at this time we simply cannot afford it.

“Let me emphasise, the reform of the economy and the improvement in the quality of life of every Jamaican is inextricably linked to the reduction of our debt and the public sector wage bill.

“We will have to continue to live within our means. In order to spend more on wages we will have to earn more, and we can only earn more by attracting greater levels of investment, local and foreign, which will provide employment for more Jamaicans.

“Faced with the choices before us, it might appear to some to be far easier to listen to the voices of political expediency and make commitments to wage increases which the present level of available resources could not support. To proceed on that path, however, would only end up reversing the progress we have made and betray the trust we have built locally and internationally. We would lose all the gains that the country has made thus far.

“This Administration will not be taking Jamaica down that road. Jamaica is still at a fragile point, halfway through the programme, and we still have a long way to go. We must maintain the momentum and do nothing to reverse or derail the substantive gains that have already been made.” (Jamaica Information Service, June 16, 2015)

Last month, Phillips told the country: “We released some of the pressure in the 2015 to 2017 contract period, but they have a legitimate right to expect more.” ( Observer, December 18, 2017)

Some time ago Phillips told us that, “In Jamaica the man, who plays by the rules gets shafted.” Is this this template from which Phillips is now playing?

Recall also these rotten comments last August from Phillips: “Make sure, Comrades, that the People's National Party is ready to become the Government of Jamaica. Remember is only one [seat] separate us in Parliament, and we don't know is which one, whether is one weh a go prison, or is a sick one, or a crazy one, but is one, and any number can play, so get yuhself ready!”

Political expediency seems to be the only game in town for Peter Phillips and the PNP.

In my December 10, 2017 article, I wrote among other things: “The Banana Quits shriek that a large, influential block in the PNP has openly espoused the Pickersgillian dictum for State power retention and acquisition as the party's best political lever to peg the double-digit lead and expanding national popularity of leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness.”

Recall these damning and poisonous comments by former 'Chairman for Life' of the PNP, now re-christened, chairman emeritus: “We believe that it is best for the People's National Party to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.” “Anything” excludes nothing. The PNP has, however, made three massive miscalculations. More anon!

Protecting our children

Prime Minister Andrew Holness touched the right buttons when he made the following comments at the Heal the Family, Heal the Nation Conference at the National Arena last week

“The Church can play an important role in dealing with the issue of violence. I say to the leaders of the clergy, 'You have to bring it to your pulpit.' We can't allow for what is happening to be covered up, particularly the abuse that is happening within the family. We must preach out against the fathers who are molesting their daughters. Some mothers remain quiet, and then that daughter grows up with anger in her; she has children and takes it out on the children, and all those children will know is violence.”

The highly disturbing allegations of serial molestation by former Moravian pastor Rupert Clarke has dealt a hammer blow to the confidence of hundreds of Jamaican in the church.

“Clarke, 64, pleaded guilty to two counts of having sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years old when he appeared in the St Elizabeth Circuit Court.

“On the night of December 28, 2016, the police reported that a team on patrol found Clarke with one of the complainants in a 'compromising position' in his parked motor vehicle near Nain, St Elizabeth.

“Further investigations revealed that Clarke also had a sexual relationship with the child's sister while she was under 16, the age of consent.” ( Observer, November 3, 2017)

Reports of other churchmen being charged for sexual molestation are extremely frightening. All steps must be taken to increase the layers of protection for children in 2018. Those who know about sexual and other abuses and do not report them to the proper authorities must stand condemned like the abusers.

PS: Dr Canute Thompson and Richard Blackford are clearly short on ammunition. Their assertions are, at minimum, fantastical. They evidently need a new strategy if he they are to be successful in their assignment. Thompson seems to have allowed his schooling to interfere with his education — and here I take liberties with American writer Mark Twain. Again, Thompson may want to say if there is a kind of Toy Story Mentality at play.

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. — Albert Einstein

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

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