Govt makes no shift on 7% salary increase for public workers 

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Not withstanding the public outcry for the Government to revisit the proposed 7% salary increase for public servants in consultation with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), President Irfaan Ali offered no shift in position when he addressed the issue early Friday morning in a Facebook live chat.

Instead, the President lashed out at the Opposition and the country’s Trade Unions, while seeking to offer a comparative analysis between the measures implemented under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AF) and his Government.

GPSU as well as the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) had both written the President with the intention of having the Government sit at the negotiating table with the workers’ representatives to discuss a meaningful increase in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreements, but the President, while addressing the nation from State House, said the unions are driven by “so-called trade union leaders” who are really “political operatives.”

“If you look at their attitude and behaviour, and their level of activism now, compared to when the APNU+AFC was in Government, you would see that they are driven by an agenda, and in this country, sometimes you do not want to call a spade, a spade but you have a president who is willing to call a spade a spade,” President Ali said while further accusing the trade unions of attempting to distort the facts.

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Noting that he is not in the business of “scoring cheap political points,” President Ali then turned his attention to the main opposition – the APNU+AFC. According to him, there has been a concerted attempt to distract Guyanese from the strides made since the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) took Office in 2020, and more so, the broken promises of previous Administration.

He said the APNU+AFC, while in Government, had promised a graduated and annual 10% increase for public servants but that was never achieved. “In the first year, for example, if you look at the increase that the APNU+AFC Government would have given, the total value of that increase paid in 2015 was $917.3M…now when you take out the PAYE, that the APNU+AFC Government took back from the workers…it was approximately $222.1M…so the net gain for the workers was $696.2M…which is far less than the 5% in the net sense,” President Ali pointed out.

He said Guyanese ought not forget that Coalition Government had given its Ministers a 50% increase in its first year in Office.

“… And the union members, where were their voices then? Where were their voices and activism then? It was dead! It was dead because it suited their narrative; it was dead because you have an agenda, and you cannot represent workers if you do so with an agenda. So let us not forget that 50%,” the President said.

But while the President appeared fixated on the increase offered to public servants in 2015, the records show that between July 1, 2015 and January 1, 2017, the APNU+AFC Government increased the minimum wage by over 50 percent, increased the income tax threshold by 20 percent, reduced the marginal income tax rate to 28 percent and removed the tax from employees’ contribution to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). In addition, old-age pension increased by 45 percent and public assistance by 27 percent. Further the marginal rate of income tax for non-commercial companies was reduced from 30 percent to 27.5percent.

But not withstanding these measures, President Ali told the nation that “many financial hardships were imposed on the population” as he referenced to the ban on the importation of vehicles eight years and older, the reduction of mortgage interest relief, the introduction of VAT on education, water, electricity and certain pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. He said to compound the situation, the Coalition terminated services of approximately 7,000 sugar workers when it opted to close a number of the sugar estates and factories.

He contended that unlike the coalition, the PPP/C Government has taken strident steps to improve the lives of Guyanese since entering Government.

President Ali said the 7% across the board increase for public servants will complement the other measures implemented since taking office, including the COVID-19 cash grant of $25,000 per household; the year-end bonuses totalling $1 billion paid in December 2020 to frontline workers in the health sector and the disciplined services; and the restoration of the Because We Care cash grants to the parents of school age children. He added that an additional $400M has been set aside for public health frontline workers to be paid before the end of the year.

The Head of State said those measures are being implemented at a time, when governments, globally, have “cut the public service” due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on economies.

“Their focus is not on salary increases, it is on preserving jobs, protecting their citizens against the pandemic and safeguarding the wellbeing of citizens, that’s the focus. In this country, we have not cut any jobs, we have not reduced time, hours of work, we have not reduced pay,” the President said.

But while the Government may not have cut jobs as a direct result of the pandemic, reports indicate that hundreds and possibly thousands of persons, within the public service, were placed on the breadline when there was a change in administration in August 2020. At the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) alone, close to 200 employees were sacked. Also since August 2020, there has been a steep rise in cost of living.



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