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…urges increase of oil royalty to 5%, implementation of direct cash transfer
Increased in wages and salaries for both public and private sector workers, direct cash transfer, tax rebate and the need for the royalty on oil to increase to a minimum of five percent, were among recommendations put on the table when the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and other labour organisations met with the Government to consult on the 2021 National Budget.
From the onset, the umbrella union said it was critical for the government to respect the right to Collective Bargaining in the public and teaching sectors consistent with Article 147 of Constitution, and in doing so, treat with the respective unions as per Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act, Cap 97:01.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), in particular, has long complained about the “arbitrary imposition” of salary increases on public servants by governments notwithstanding the existence of a binding collective bargaining agreement.
Further, the GTUC lobbied government for the implementation of the 2019 Tripartite Committee’s Agreement to raise the Private Sector Minimum Wage to $60,000 per month. The committee comprises of Government, Employers’ Representative and Workers’ Representative.
The union also used the opportunity to call on the Government to enforce the Labour Law by declaring deadlock of the Conciliation Process into the impasse between management of the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) and the workers. Such a move, it explained will set the stage for arbitration in resolving the 11-year old dispute. “BCGI remains a functioning, legal registered company in Guyana and has obligations under the Laws of Guyana which the Government must enforce. Hundreds of workers have been placed on the breadline and remain economically dispossessed by Government’s inaction,” GTUC explained.
Turning its attention to the Sugar Industry, the union said it was important for the Government to present the nation with a clear plan detailing how it will return the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to economic viability. After decades of operating at a loss, the previous A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Administration had down sized the Industry but the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), since returning to Office in August 2020, has taken steps to reopen the closed estates while pumping billions into the industry.
In the area of oil and gas, the Union lobbied Government to increase the royalty on oil from a low of 2% to a minimum of 5% while setting the stage for public hearing on the Sovereign Wealth Fund to determine management and allocation. Additionally, it wants Tax and Land Reform, clear guidelines on COVID-19 vaccination programme, the establishment of industrial estates in each region, Old Age Pension to increase to $40,000, reduced concession given to the Private Sector, and strict rules on procurement of goods and services and employment on Local Content.
“Whereas in 2019 Guyana became an oil producing nation, the Government has committed to Sustainable Development and is a signatory of the United Nations Paris Climate Change Agreement. GTUC proposes budgetary allocation from oil and gas revenue to create an economy that is all inclusive,” the Union told the Government, while making a case for direct cash transfer through social programmes.
“It is the World Bank’s conviction that cash transfers are a Safety Net for many in society. The Bank defines this as “the provision of assistance in the form of cash to the poor or to those who face a probable risk of falling into poverty in the absence of the transfer,” it posited.
It said the primary objective is to increase poor and vulnerable households’ real income.”
Further, it championed the need for PAYE and tax rebate, through the restoration of allowance for children. “Pay monthly grant to those 18 years and older with conditionalities. Conditionalities can vary from returning to school to pursuing certain educational programmes that vary from time to time dependent on national needs. The approach encourages development of our human resources and channeling same in directions of national need,” the union posited.
GTUC also made a case for unemployed Guyanese to receive financial assistance during a stipulated maximum time period, to enable to sustain themselves at least. Further, it recommended that the meal programme be expanded to provide a daily balanced lunch for school children from nursery to secondary for all public schools.
“Reduction in electricity, transportation and gas prices- Transfer benefit through reduction in the cost of electricity and the sale of non-taxable gas. Reinstituting of a public transportation system which would create competition and alternative, and moreso aide the vulnerable in being able to afford and access this service,” it further recommended.
The union made its recommendation on Saturday, February 6, 2021 during the consultative meeting which also saw participation from the Private Sector Commission. Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira were among the Government Officials present. Dr. Singh will present the national budget come Friday, February 12, 2021.