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…GPSU says several requests for talks have been ignored
…GPSU dispatches ultimatum letter
With no pay hike for public servants since the PPP/C took office the Guyana Public Service Union has written the Permanent Secretary, Public Service Ministry detailing the breaches and violations of agreements and conventions by the Government of Guyana and its reneging on their obligations and lawful requirements.
Among the breaches the union cited are: the Agreement between the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Public Service Union for the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes; Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act 1997 and International Labour Organisation Conventions 98 and 154.
“Those breaches and violations were brought to the attention of His Excellency Dr. Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister Mark Phillips, Attorney General Anil Nandalall, Minister of Public Service Sonia Parag, International Labour Organisation Director General Guy Ryder, Public Services International General Secretary Rosa Pavaneli, PSI Sub Regional Secretary Sandra Massiah,” GPSU said in a statement.
In its letter to the PS, the GPSU reminded the minister that in several letters during the period September 1, 2020 and the most recent being April 27, 2021 it requested urgent meetings to commence outstanding negotiations for wages, salaries and allowances for the years 2020 and 2021. ”This request was made in keeping with Clause 6 of the “Agreement for the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes” between the Government of Guyana (GOG) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU). In this regard, those letters were neither acknowledged nor were efforts made to set a meeting date to commence negotiations, even though reminders were sent,” the GPSU wrote. “The failure to take action to convene the requested meeting and the blatant disregard of both the requests and subsequent reminders constitute a breach of the legally binding agreement between the parties and is in conflict with Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act which requires the employer to bargain in good faith and enter into negotiations with each other for the purpose of collective bargaining,” the GPSU told the minister.
It added: “It should be noted that there is an astronomically increase in the cost of living and the last salary increase was granted in 2019, and allowances were reviewed more than two decades ago. The purchasing power of workers has decreased significantly. Just a few days ago there was an increase of five dollars for every liter of gasoline which resulted in excess burden on the pockets of workers, tasked with executing Government’s policies and collecting its revenues.
As the employer, Government has shown disdain and disregard for both the workers in the Public Service and their representative, which has sullied its much lofted claim as being a caring working class Government and a respecter of the ‘Laws of Guyana’.
The flouting of the aforementioned agreement and the ignoring of the plight of Public Service workers and pensioners is evidence enough of the lack of care and/or consideration for persons who are giving and have given yeoman service to this nation. Memory lane also provides a sterling example of the shabby treatment of the healthcare sector, which has mainly been besieged since 2020 by the need to protect the populace and themselves from the ravages of COVID-19. This is especially sad since there was an agreement that risk allowances are deserving and should be paid to all healthcare workers during the deadly pandemic, but several months later there has been no payout nor any related announcement.”
The union told the Permanent Secretary, that the posturing of the Government of Guyana is unjustifiable, unwarranted, bias and discriminatory. “As the Employer, the Government should honour and respect its obligations in the existing binding agreement. The GPSU therefore takes this opportunity to remind you of your responsibility as the employer’s representative and hereby request that an urgent meeting date be set during the week beginning July 12, 2021 to commence negotiations for wages, salaries and allowances for the years 2020 and 2021,” the letter concluded.
Back in April the GPSU had said despite the steep increase in cost of living linked to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the salaries of public servants have remained stagnant for more than two years.
“Employees of the Public Service have not enjoyed any increases in pay or earnings since January 2019. This situation is compounded in many respects because of Covid-19 and the necessary precautions workers are required to consider in their own health and safety, which results in significant increase in expenditures coupled with rise in cost of living,” the union had said in a statement.
It reminded that on the campaign trail ahead of the 2020 General and Regional Elections, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had vowed to increase the salaries of public servants by 50% but close to a year after taking office, it has not made good on its commitment, though a proposal was put forward by the union. “As cost of living skyrockets, Government has seemingly ignored the cry of the working class by “turning a deaf ear” to the requirements for bargaining and consensus. As such, the working class is made to suffer without any hope of timely redress. Only yesterday, the price of gasoline was increased by $8.00 per litre, adding more pressure to workers’ woes,” GPSU said in a statement.
It said the government has vacillated with the payment of a risk allowance to critical frontline workers of the public service, even though agreed to in principle previously by both sides.
During the last budget debate Former Vice President, Khemraj Ramjattan, MP had called on the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government to increase the wages and salaries of public servants by 10 percent as an interim measure pending negotiations with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU). “I propose that there be a wage increase of 10 percent across the board retroactive to January pending negotiations with all stakeholders in government and in the GPSU…” MP Ramjattan said as he made what he described as a “simple demand.”
The APNU+AFC said the request is in recognition of the hardship faced by public servants during the almost year-long COVID-19 pandemic. “Please if you have any heart, ensure that, that happens. We would like lots more but 10 per cent minimum is what we seek at this stage,” MP Ramjattan said.
During the presentation of the multibillion budget by Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh there was no mention of an increase in wages for public servants for 2020, however, pressed for answers, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo subsequently told journalists that some $10B is included in the budget for public servants. “The fact is that over $10B has been budgeted in the estimates under the head, ‘revision of wages and salaries’. A huge part of that sum will go towards salary increases for public sector workers,” Vice President Jagdeo said.
It is unclear at this stage by what percentage the salaries of public servants would be increased, and exactly when.
On the campaign trail ahead of the 2020 General and Regional Elections, the PPP/C had promised a 50% salary increase for public servants, however, there was no such increase when the 2020 Emergency Budget was presented last September, and no such increase this time around. The APNU+AFC, during its five-years in office, increased salaries by 26%, 10%, 9%, 7% and 9% annually from 2015 to 2019. The minimum wage went from $39,570 in May 2015 to $70,000 in 2019.