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President Irfaan Ali in a Facebook post yesterday announced the Government will pay out to public sector workers an across-the-board increase of eight per cent (8 %) which will be retroactive. Ali did not say when the payment is retroactive from or whether the payment is a one-off. Guyanese have been reacting to the information which the president said will be announced next week.
This publication reached out to Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Roysdale Forde SC, who is also responsible for Labour, for a comment. According to Forde, the Ali administration continues to govern Guyana with no vision, plan, regard for law and the rights of all Guyanese that would make meaningful the national motto, “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”
“The president wakes on any given day and makes decisions based on his mood. Nothing is ever carefully thought out. Further, in a democratic society, every citizen regardless of class, gender, sexual orientation, cultural, ethnic, religious background, or political association is entitled to equal rights and treatment under the law.”
The announcement of an 8 % increase is not only a violation of the rights of workers through their trade unions, where these exist, to collective bargaining but 8% is an insult to the public servants, said the shadow minister. “It’s an abomination!”
The two-year Ali administration has refused, thus far, to engage the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) in collective bargaining. Both unions reached out to the government to facilitate the process but have had no positive feedback. Presently the court is being asked by the GPSU to direct the government to respect the constitutional right to collective bargaining and engage the union.
GTU General Secretary, Ms. Coretta McDonald, told this publication, the Union continues to reach out to the government to begin talks based on the proposal submitted two years ago. According to the Union the proposal is with the Office of the President and the leadership has been advised when the Office is ready someone will make contact.
Meanwhile, Forde is contending the increase is a mere paltry sum and would make no significant difference in the lives of public sector workers who are finding it difficult to make ends meet. “The increase does nothing to improve the quality of life for public servants. It fails to offer any relief against the ever spiraling cost of living.”
The Office of the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday, at its press conference, said food inflation is expected from December 2020 to be close to 25% by year-end and unemployment, especially among youths, is over 30%.
A 20-pound cooking gas which last year cost $3000.00 is now being sold at $4500.00, a 50lb bag of flour that sold last year at $3800 is presently selling at $5000, sugar which was sold at $70.00 per pound is now being sold at $200.00, are examples of how the cost of living has spiraled and not kept pace with wage/salary increase.
Former Prime Minister and Mayor, Mr. Hamilton Green, wrote President Ali last September on the economic situation, drawing to his attention, among other things, that public sector employees who are taking home “less than one hundred and twenty thousand ($120,000) a month ….their salaries/wages be doubled immediately, [with] the necessary adjustments for those earning more to avoid disparities and bunching.” The president has not responded to Green.
The Alliance for Change (AFC), in a recent statement, called on the government to pay a livable pension, increase public sector workers’ salaries by at least 50 per cent. According to the party the calls are justifiable, particularly when the World Bank is reporting “Oil production, and consequently real GDP, is expected to jump in 2022 with real GDP expected to more than double by 2023, pushing per capita income to over US$20,000 at the current nominal exchange rate.”
In light of the national economic reality and the hardship on the ordinary man, Forde said the 8 % increase serves only to cast gloom over the country, increase despair in homes and families, dash hopes of equitable treatment and allocation of resources. “Significantly, the stingy PPP government is making it clear that public servants will not receive a livable wage during their time in office.”
And, according to the Member of Parliament, moreover public servants, their families and communities must now conclude the PPP has no intention of allowing them to partake in the prosperity of Guyana.