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…GPSU says if members show readiness Union will help mobilise
By Lisa Hamilton
Though President Irfaan Ali has announced retroactive salary increases for public servants before the end of 2021, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) said on Tuesday that the Government maintains its streak of disrespect to the Union and public servants, as the timeframe provided is not in keeping with previous discussions had.
Furthermore, the Union said that it has made several attempts over the years, but the Government refuses to negotiate with the Union. Should public servants show unity and interest, the Union said that it will organise itself against the current treatment of public servants.
President Ali made the announcement for the pending salary increases during a press conference on August 2, 2021, even as negotiation for increases for wages, salaries, and allowances remain outstanding for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021.
At a press conference on Tuesday, GPSU Vice-President, Dawn Gardner read out a statement from the Union that was seasoned with frustration and displeasure with the actions and non-action of the Government.
“…there was a public statement that public service workers would get increases by the end of the year. This display is in clear conflict with the agreement and the legitimate manner these matters are addressed,” Gardner said.
She added: “Public servants are human beings. It is their efforts that are keeping the wheels of the Government turning and this nation. Increases in their depreciated earning are merited and must be addressed urgently. It is unconscionable and inhumane to frustrate these new negotiations which would undoubtedly result in the recognition of awarding substantial increases in their remuneration. The Government’s action streaks of disrespect.”
DELAYED FOR TOO LONG
For over two years, the GPSU said that it has requested that the Government address improvements in conditions of service and this request has not been met. The Union said that frontline workers were misled that they would be paid a risk allowance for taking up the challenge of working amid the COVID-19 pandemic and they were left hanging.
On the other hand, the GPSU highlighted that these workers have watched on as “massive sums” accrued through their hard work were “squandered in favour of political preferences”. The Union said public servants watched on as large sums were forked out for GuySuCo and the recent flood crisis, but nothing was given to public servants for whom the cost of living continues to rise.
Gardner said: “These workers were deceived and are being bullied to risk their lives to continue to function in this deadly environment… the GPSU, in accordance with the clauses of its legally binding agreement with the Government of Guyana, submitted proposals for increases in salaries and allowances, the agreement stipulates a time by which the administration should respond. This was not done.”
MORE ACTION COULD COME
The GPSU has also written to the Ministry of Labour and the Chairman of the Trade Union Recognition Board, Dr. Nanda Gopaul and has received no response.
It has reached out to International Trade Union bodies such as Public Services International (PSI) and the Caribbean Public Services Association (CPSA) which Gardner said will soon be sharing their position with the Union and the Government.
While the GPSU, on Tuesday, filed legal action against the Government in relation to contentious updates to the COVID-19 Gazetted Orders, Gardner said that more such court cases could come for other matters affecting public servants.
Questioned on whether the Courts – which often take years to resolve matters – is the best avenue of the Union, Gardner said that such decisions are made following consultation with Members.
Meanwhile, GPSU President, Patrick Yarde added that it will be Guyana’s public servants who decide whether they want to increase the heat on the Government if that’s what it takes for them to get what they deserve.
He said: “Our army is the militancy of our members. If we’re convinced that the members and the public will come out and put a stop to this nonsense, you will wake up tomorrow and see a difference. Our preparedness is premised on us being convinced that people are ready for the struggle…from my assessment, there is a build-up, but it is not totally sufficient. There is need for more effort, there is need for more convincing, there is need for more togetherness.”
At the press briefing, the GPSU called on the public to recognise that the action of the government has implications for all. Meanwhile, it called on the Government to engage the GPSU to negotiate increases for wages, salaries, and allowances for 2019, 2020 and 2021 for public sector workers.