Widespread condemnation of 7% pay hike for public servants
Nov 22, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Citizens, trade unions and political parties continue to condemn the meagre seven percent increase in salary for public servants, with the lead union in the public sector – Guyana Public Service Union – deeming the imposition a violation of the constitution.
Last week government announced its seven percent across-the-board increase for public servants, this even after they did not award any increase to them in 2020. In a statement, the GPSU said On 19 November 2021, it convened an emergency meeting of its negotiating team, chaired by the President of the Union, Mr. Patrick M. Yarde, to further ventilate and plan a course of action on the recent announcement of the illegally imposed salary increases by the Government of Guyana. “This display of executive lawlessness by Government of Guyana through its representative Minister of finance, Dr. Ashni Singh was defended by Ms Sonia Parag, Minister of Public Service.”
“Their actions constitute a violation of Article 147(3) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act 1997 and the International Labour Organization Convention 151 which was unanimously ratified by the Parliament of Guyana and currently in force, and is the legally binding Agreement between the GPSU and Government of Guyana for the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes,” GPSU said.
The GPSU said at their emergency meeting, it was decided that President Ali should be written to, in order to remedy “this blatant disregard for the Constitution, ratified and in force International Labour Organization Conventions and Laws of Guyana, he had sworn to uphold. A letter was dispatched to the Office of the President. see copy attached.” The team further decided to write the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, who is responsible for ensuring that the Government of Guyana conducts the affairs of state and all other responsibilities in conformity with the Constitution and Laws of Guyana and their Oath of Office, to publicly express his opinion on the legality of the Union’s representations on behalf of Public Service workers, with the realistic expectation of the cessation of executive lawlessness that is being displayed by the Government of Guyana.
The GPSU will be expecting early responses to its correspondence and urgent action to address this imminent humanitarian crisis that is confronting Public Sector workers.
Meanwhile, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), also condemned what it described as the continuous assault of Rights and the Rule of Laws by the Irfaan Ali/Bharrat Jagdeo government.
“It comes as no surprise, the recent eyes pass committed against public servants and teachers with the imposition of a seven-percent increase. This increase is not only miniscule given the escalation of cost of living in the last year but the arrival at the sum violates the tenets of good industrial relations practices, and a stable industrial climate,” the GTUC said.
“Teachers and public servants are represented by unions, viz, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and Guyana Teachers Union (GTU). Consistent with International Labour Organisation Conventions Nos. 87, 98 and 151; Article 147 of the Constitution of Guyana; and Section 23(1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act,
the employer, who is the Government of Guyana, is duty bound to engage in collective bargaining with the respective unions.”
According to the GTUC the paltry seven percent confirms the opinion of many that the Ali/Jagdeo regime will take the taxes paid by teachers, public servants and others and lopsidedly distribute to friends and cronies which clearly shows biases that will not augur well for the solidarity of the working class and ethnic relations.
The GTUC said, last year the government refused to consider engaging the GPSU and GTU to address the welfare of workers within the sectors. “In fact, in 2020 the government had the temerity to say workers will not receive a salary increase without even speaking with their unions. They also continue to refuse to resolve the 11-year grievances between the Guyana Bauxite Workers Union and General Workers Union (GBWU&GWU) and Bauxite Company Guyana Incorporated (BCGI).” “As officials of government trot around the world on the workers’ taxes proclaiming democracy in Guyana, lest it be forgotten, democracy is grounded in respecting human and civil rights and the application of just laws. These tenets are being trampled on daily in Guyana,” the GTUC stated.
For its part, the Working Peoples’ Alliance also condemned the government for having the temerity to offer public servants a meagre 7% increase on their already unlivable wages. “Only a government that is contemptuous of the workers could offer such a scandalous package to a section of the labour force that is charged with managing government institutions, protecting the nation, providing healthcare and educating our children among other critical tasks,” the WPA said. It added, “In the first place, the government continues the illegal practice of ignoring its collective bargaining responsibilities and imposing a wage package without agreement with the workers’ unions. The continued refusal to meet with the unions to discuss their proposed demands has further tarnished Guyana’s image as a country committed to the primacy of labour as a factor in national development. Further, it is a betrayal of the PPP’s own historical commitment to the working class. Given the fact that workers’ wages have not been increased since 2019 andthe fact that prices of food and other essential items have since raised astronomically, a 7 percent increase amounts to little or no real increase in wages. When one adds taxation to the mix, the real value of the proposed increase is further diminished. What is a 7 percent increase in wages against the backdrop of a fourteen percent increase in food costs? Any head of household will tell you that that amounts to negative growth in earnings.
For all intent and purposes this is not a salary increase—it is yet another cash giveaway. But, when one takes into consideration the government’s announced package of $250, 000 to each sugar worker, this offer to another critical section of the workforce represents a tiny fraction of the former. Making the 7 percent retroactive to January 2021 offers little or no comfort. For example, 7percent of an entry-level policewoman’s salary of approximately $65, 000 amounts to a miserly $55, 000 for all of 2021. Further, whereas the price tag for the payout to the sugar workers is $1.7B, the government offers $400M to frontline workers.”
The WPA said whether it is the government’s intention or not, the comparison of the two payouts suggests clear discrimination on the part of the government. “WPA has long called on governments to be mindful of the ethnic impact of policies and actions in a country which is sharply divided along ethnic lines. Against that background, WPA characterizes this latest PPP intervention as yet another political provocation. WPA is not opposed to relief for sugar workers. Rather it is staunchly opposed to the discriminatory and unstructured manner in which government has been distributing resources.”
WPA reminded Guyanese of its Cash Transfer proposal that is on the table. “If the government is serious about real relief for working people, it should cease the unstructured, discriminatory and unaccountable manner that it has employed and instead engage stakeholders in a serious Cash Transfer policy. WPA’s proposal is for a transfer to all households regardless of ethnicity. Our party stands ready to engage the government, trade unions, other political parties and related interests in beginning such a process.
For now, WPA believes the government in the shortest term should modify the current proposal. It should call the unions to an emergency meeting and work on a consensus ‘Christmas” package that should among other things increase the offer, remove the taxes and make it retroactive to the last salary increase (2019). But this should not be a substitute for a real wage package. Hence, agreement on this relief package should be tied to immediate talks on a structured wage package with the unions. WPA also proposes doubling the grant to the Frontline Workers as a matter of fairness. Failure to move in this direction would open the door to workers’ action—a move that the WPA strongly supports. The right to a living wage is linked to the right to life—a sacred human right.”