Trade unions up in arms against govt over imposition of 7% pay hike  

Lincoln Lewis

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The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) have written the government complaining about the seven percent pay increase offered to public servants and have requested a meeting with the President to thrash out the matter.
Last Thursday government announced a seven percent, across-the-board salary increase for public servants, retroactive from January 2021.
Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh in a statement said Government will be paying the across-the-board increase of seven percent to public servants, teachers, members of the disciplined services, constitutional office holders, as well as government pensioners. “This increase will be granted retroactively to 1 January 2021, and work will start immediately to ensure that it is processed and paid to eligible employees together with their December salary and in time for the festive Christmas season,” the Minister explained. A number of unions as well as citizens have denounced the increase.

In a letter to President, Irfaan Ali, GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis said that the union has had an opportunity to discuss with the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the seven percent increase in wages for Public Servants for 2021. “The two abovementioned unions are the principal unions representing public servants but there are also other unions representing public servants. The principal unions reject the decision of the Government. They do this in light of the rampant inflation affecting workers and the sharp increase in the cost of living,” Lewis told the President.
He stated:“Your Excellency, you are also aware that the National Assembly approved $10 billion in the 2021 budget for increases in pay to Public Servants. This line item appears under the Ministry of Finance, in the estimates. The 7% proposal, amounts to about $4.2 billion (gross) cost to the Treasury. This amount is taxed, so the Treasury claws back some of this money; in the circumstances, and based upon consultations within our unions, we now urgently request a meeting with you to discuss the way forward.”

Lewis said in his letter that it is not unreasonable to demand that the monies approved by the National Assembly, be paid for the purpose so directed, which would be slightly above 14%. “You are also aware that Guyana is now an oil economy and the traditional economy is no longer an argument and the low wage structure must now be a thing of the past. We expect to hear from your office by Friday, 3rd December, 2021 by 15:30 hours. It would be remiss of us, if at this meeting, we did not seek to obtain a return to Collective Bargaining, as required by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions,” the letter stated.

The GPSU also wrote Attorney General Anil Nandlall. In their letter GPSU told Nandlall that he has the responsibility to ensure that the Government acts in conformity with the Constitution and Laws of Guyana. The Union requested the Attorney General’s candid and professional opinion on its accusations of the Government of Guyana flouting the Constitution and the Laws of Guyana and acting in conflict with its obligations to honour the International Labour Organisation Convention 151 Labour Relations (Public Service) which was unanimously approved by the Parliament of Guyana and is in force. These legally binding agreements that were entered into by the Government are not being upheld, the union said.

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