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The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), which is in a court battle with the Government to respect collective bargaining, is calling out President Irfaan Ali’s double standards and exposing the ‘one Guyana’ slogan. The two-year-old Ali administration has not met with the Union to negotiate increased wages/salary and improve working conditions.
Article 147 of the Constitution of Guyana protects the rights to collective bargaining. Whilst, according to the constitution, these are rights guaranteed to all unionised workers within Guyana’s jurisdiction, the Government does not respect this right for all unionised workers. Trade unionists, workers and Guyanese have repeatedly spoken out about the disparity in treatment for public servants, teachers and bauxite workers compared to workers in sugar.
GPSU, in a recent press statement, reminded President Ali of statements he made when in opposition as against what his administration is doing. “As recent as the year 2016 Mr. Irfaan Ali, in his role as a member of the Opposition in Parliament, correctly chided the Granger Administration for its failure to use collective bargaining as a basis of determining the fair wages of Public Servants, but now as Head of State he is reluctant to uphold these very requirements of the Law or rather to ensure that his administration is in compliance of the Law.”
The Constitution of Guyana protects the public sector from political interference which the Union said is also under threat. To this end, the Union reminded the Government of Article 38G which guarantees the public service to be free from political influence, pointing out over time the service has been politically destabilised by the overarching influences of politicians and the injection of political appointees at every level.
According to the GPSU, “there has also been the desecration of the pensionable establishment with contract employment, with the resultant flight of professionalism, as replaced by political allegiances and cronyism. This, in effect, was a reversal in what was agreed to between the GPSU and the previous PPP/C Government for the reclassification of contract employees to the Permanent Pensionable Establishment, which process was significantly implemented.”
Unapologetically, the Union drew attention to government’s violation of the constitution and discriminatory management of the state, noting: “Whereas the Constitution of Guyana decries all forms of discrimination and the fact that President Ali…foresworn to uphold the tenets of the Constitution, it was expected that there would have been an evenhanded approach to the alleviation of poverty and economic relief grants to citizens. However, this is not the case as various methodologies, including the politicisation of relief grants.”
The Union is accusing the goverment, supported by evidence, of obvious selectiveness in the distribution of grants from public funds with noticeable politicisation that is clearly discriminatory.
Highlighting government’s double standards and discriminatory treatment of workers, referenced was made to the $250,000 grants issued to terminated GuySuCo sugar workers, who were fully compensated with severance benefits under the Granger Administration, while denying the severed workers of the Bauxite Company Guyana Inc. (BCGI) their rights to the proper computation and payment of correct severance benefits or similar cash grants.
Another is the issuance of $150,000 grants to fisherfolk, which the Union said may have had its roots in a reported economic decline in the industry, but which is incomparable to the plights of the severed bauxite workers or that of Public Servants.
Stark comparison was drawn to the “payment of a miserly pension grant of $28,000 to pensioners, who struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, with the substandard resources available to them.” According to the Union, this group comprises a large percentage of former Public Servants, who are being paid substandard pension packages because of starvation wages received over their years of work.
Turning attention to financial benefits in the public sector, it was pointed out under the Ali regime public sector workers were paid a “miserly cash grant of $25,000 and an equally shameful seven per cent (7%) across-the-board increase in December 2021, amidst the billions of dollars being doled out daily to his constituents and amidst much political fanfare.”
The government’s much touted $200 million electricity credits for vulnerable households came in for criticism given criteria for accessing the grant is one of the best kept secrets in the country, noted the Union.
President Ali’s actions are dissimilar to his spoken word, and the claim to ‘one Guyana’ statehood is dissimilar to his project implementation for the peoples of Guyana, the Union made known. “There seems to be a love for some and not for all, when relief is being granted from the country’s coffers.”