Jamaican Unions End Walkout
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) _ Labor leaders say they have agreed to end their general strike after the government threatened disciplinary action against public employees who remained off the job.
E. Lloyd Taylor, general-secretary of the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers, told reporters after a meeting of union leaders late Sunday that another meeting would be held in one week to assess the situation.
A general strike by unions representing 250,000 workers began June 24, disrupting electric power, water and communication services last week, but lost momentum when most public employees returned to work Friday.
The strike was called to protest government austerity programs that cost many public service workers their jobs and raised the cost of living.
After union leaders rejected Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s call to end the strike and meet with him, Seaga warned Friday that public employees who remained off the job would face disciplinary action. He also withdrew his offer to meet with the union leaders.
Jamaica’s largest union, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, withdrew from what was to have been a mass rally of striking unions last Thursday.
Leaders of the Bustamante union - affiliated with Seaga’s Jamaica Labor Party - said they refused to attend because the Communist Workers Party and other ″anti-government elements″ participated.
Fuel haulers returned to work last Saturday. The Jamaica Defense Force - the national police - had taken over their work during the strike.
Seaga has fired 6,000 public employees, and the unions say a total of 17,000 Jamaicans lost their jobs last year because of 30 percent inflation sparked by government economic measures.