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|Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, in a community outreach on the West Coast Demerara, said the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government cares about public servants, and made the claim that in December 2021, more than 20,000 public servants benefitted from a seven (7) per cent salary increase, coupled with a $400 million bonus for frontline workers.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), in a recent press statement, blasted the President Irfaan Ali two-year-old government for not engaging the union on behalf of public service workers. 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 GPSU in the necessary process of collective bargaining towards an agreement for a living wage for public servants.”
GPSU pointed out that since 2020 the government has done 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 per cent (7%) across-the-board increase, which taken as a whole could not absorb the impact of COVID-19 price increases
Castigating President Ali’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 history of successive PPP/C governments has seen public servants always having to engage in protest to get the government, their employer, to acknowledge the workers have a constitutional right to collective bargaining between their union and employer (government). Even with the right enshrined the government has at least a 99 per cent rating of non-engagement with the unions, always resorting to imposing wages and salaries.
During Mr. Jagdeo as Minister of Finance, in 1999, public servants were on a 50 plus days nationwide strike. The strike was called off when an agreement between the public servant unions and government to go to arbitration was hammered out. The arbitration panel was headed by Management Consultant, Dr. Aubrey Armstrong. Many aspects of this arbitration award were never honoured by the PPP/C.
In the two-year President Irfaan Ali has been in government there has been no collective bargaining with the teachers nor public service unions. GPSU recently took the Government to court for failing to respect collective bargaining. The Guyana Teachers Union, General Secretary, Coretta McDonald told Village Voice the union is awaiting response from the government to begin engagement with their proposal.
Workers employed by the Bauxite Company Guyana Incorporation (BCGI) which is part owned by Russia and the Government of Guyana, are still to have their right to collective bargaining respected. General Secretary, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&WGU), Lincoln Lewis said repeated letters were sent to the Ministry of Labour on issues that impact workers employed by BCGI. The trade unionist said Minister Hamilton and Chief Labour have refused to take action, including making right the incorrect termination benefits those workers received.
The PPP/C government has shown, thus far, that the workers whose right to collective bargaining is respected are those in unions considered friendly to them or their supporters are in the majority in the specific workforce.