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—says Article 13
Civil Society Group- Article 13 said the Government’s announcement on minimum wage is a violation of domestic law and international convention.
In a statement on Saturday the group said it noted the announcement by senior Minister in the Ministry of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh of a 7 percent salary increase for public servants and government pensioners for the year 2021. “Once again, we witness the spectacle of the imposition of wage increase by unilateral action, as has happened for every year since 1999! This is a clear breach of the Constitution, the Trade Union Recognition Act, the Agreement for collective bargaining between the Government and the workers’ Unions, and ILO Conventions.”
The pro-democracy grouping said tellingly, the imposition also violates Article 13 of the Constitution which was elevated to a fundamental right under Article 149 C. “To make matters worse, the Minister of the Public Service insults the intelligence of the nation with the fatuous excuse for non-consultation with the Union that the government was “pressed for time”. As a lawyer by profession, the Minister ought to be aware of section 23 of the Trade Union Recognition Act which imposes on employers a duty to bargain in good faith and enter into negotiations with [the trade unions] for the purpose of collective bargaining.”
The group said it seems that no one in this Government understands that collective bargaining extends beyond wages and salaries and includes other terms and conditions of work as well. “Our Group submits that collective bargaining for the year 2021should have commenced and coincided with the 2021 Budget process so that it could be included in the 2021 Appropriations Act. And even if belated negotiations had taken place as part of the mid-year review, the two sides could have considered the fact that the growth in the Guyana’s economy outstripped that of any other country in the world. And that increases in the cost of living of basic items have been running at anywhere between 10% and 30%; and that consumer prices at the end of the first half of 2021 grew by 5.6 percent. “
Accordingly, the group said the 7% does not represent any real increase for public sector employees or their standard of living. “In addressing the issue of representation, we note the poor quality of representation of our public sector workers by incompetent and even absentee leadership. Our Group’s call for democracy and accountability extends not only to the Government of the day, but to the Opposition and to the trade unions. We cannot help but note with surprise that the political Opposition is now rejecting the imposition of wage increases in the public sector when it did the same while it was in Government between 2015 and 2020. Finally, we remind the Government that it is beyond time for it to review the minimum wage in the private and the public sector, particularly with respect to our nurses, teachers, the Police and the Army who are in the frontline protecting our people and our territory. This Government, like its predecessor, appears utterly oblivious to the question of the minimum wage in the private sector which stands at $44,500 which is a complete disgrace in an oil economy.”