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The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is reminding the Government of Guyana, employer of public servant workers, that Article 38G of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana guarantees the public service be free from political influence.
Article 38G states:
“(1) The integrity of the public service is guaranteed. No public officer shall be required to execute or condone irregular acts on the basis of higher orders.
(2) The freedom of every public officer to perform his or her duties and fulfil his or her responsibilities is protected.
(3) No public officer shall be the subject of sanctions of any kind without due process.
(4) In the discharge of his or her duties a public officer shall execute the lawful policies of the government.”
The Union, in expressing concern for the government’s disregard for constitutional protection, is also flaying the Ali administration for political interference in an effort to destabilise the public service, but warned public servants will not be deterred in the professional discharge of their duties of their various offices.
GPSU is demanding a living wage for its members and notes the reluctance of the government to uplift public servants to the level of a living wage. This situation is now, coupled with escalating cost of living, resulting in financial hardships being heaped upon public servants and the nation by extension, the Union contends.
According to the Union “it is now an inescapable fact the PPP/C Government is very reluctant to better the lot of public servants, as with a national budget of GY$552.9B, backed by a drawdown of US$200M or GY$41.7B, has not motivated it to engage the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) in the necessary process of collective bargaining towards an agreement for a living wage for public servants.”
The Irfaan Ali government has been in office for two years. Article 147 of the Constitution of Guyana protects the Right to Collective Bargaining, and Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Act mandates the employer to negotiate in good faith with the trade union.
Since the Union’s statement President Ali has promised to meet with the leadership. But meeting with the Union is no guarantee the government will respect Collective Bargaining for public servants. General Secretary, Guyana Trades Union Congress, Lincoln Lewis in an invited comment said there is no guarantee a meeting with the President will see departure from past conduct, i.e., talking with the Union one or three times per year and in December imposing wage and salary increase.
“Collective Bargaining speaks to an array of issues which include wages and salary, allowances, and other working conditions and it is important the government sits with the Union and works through the proposal submitted by the Union,” the General Secretary contended.
The PPP/C government has a history of non-engagement in collective bargaining with unions they consider independent of the party. Unions considered aligned or friendly, like the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) experience no such disregard for the right to collective bargaining. The Guyana Teachers Union faces similar fate like the GPSU. The Ali government is yet to engage teachers in collective bargaining.
Since “its ascension to office in the year 2020 [the government] did nothing to alleviate the pains and sufferings of its workforce, other than to offer a miniscule cash grant of $25,000 in the year 2020 and a year later a paltry award of a taxable seven percent (7%) across-the-board increase, which taken as a whole could not absorb the impact of COVID-19 price increases,” the GPSU charged.
Castigating the Government’s ‘one Guyana’ slogan the Union said the narrative has a suspicious connotation of the “One China” claim that is currently being used to deny Taiwan the recognition as an independent country, and the President’s utterances are merely smokescreens, obviously not channelled to good governance, but craftily created to deceive.
The GPSU has since taken the Government to court to enforce the constitutional right to collective bargaining for workers in a unionised environment.