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It’s now Christmas 2022 and paramount in this is a season where there should be “goodwill” and reaching out to please, especially to those in need. This sentiment is absent for the almost two and one-half years of the Mohamed Irfaan Ali Government that oversaw a mass of economic activity, including drawdowns from the Natural Resources Fund of more than US$600M and significant increases in the national debt. The crumbs from the hive of economic activity were of course granted to Public Servants in the form of an afterthought in the run-up to Christmas.
Public Sector Workers were denied of Trade Union representation, because of Government’s lawless attitude through reluctance and disrespect for the Constitution and other Laws of Guyana, International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention 98 and the Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention 151 that were all ratified by the Parliament of Guyana and are in force, together with the legally binding Agreement for the Avoidance of Settlement of Disputes, between the Government of Guyana and the GPSU that is embodied in the 1987 Public Service Rules.
This culminated in its abject failure to negotiate for improved conditions of service, with the result that workers were paid a one-off cash grant in 2020, but were allowed no increases in wages and salaries during that year, even though workers were at risk from the onslaught of the COVID-19 Pandemic and suffered tremendously from the economic fallouts of the virus. Thereafter, miniscule impositions of wages and salaries increases were foisted on the workers for the years 2021 and 2022 at respective rates of seven (7) and eight (8) percent. To add insult to injury, income tax was a mandatory deduction in both years.
The foisting of economic crumbs upon the Public Servants was done notwithstanding the fact that since 1993, the PPP/C Government intimated that “… there exists a need for negotiation of a comprehensive wages policy to solve the problems of the employed poor in the Public Service ….”, recognizing that Public Servants existed in abject poverty and was significantly below a living wage, a crisis that existed for decades.
In relation to the unilaterally determined increases, Government sought to justify its quantum by using intimidatory tactics, where Public Servants were being asked to give opinions on the sufficiency of the increases to their political heads, during videotaped sessions, while their cohorts misrepresented the cost of living and inflationary trends in the print media. Of course, Government was well aware through its statistical machinery that cost of living had jumped from a consistent two (2) percent price inflation in the year 2019 to approximately seven (7) percent in 2021 and further to about 11 percent in the year 2022. Even if Government was to address wages and salaries at the level of inflation it would have been unrealistic and grossly inadequate.
That apart, the never ending political “sand-dancing” continued unabated over the years at the expense of the people. Some Guyanese were selectively chosen for meaningful handouts, while some were afforded a miniscule $28,000 and others nothing at all. To cover for the unconscionable considerations, the political propaganda machine singled out, among other things, the relief from APNU/AFC VAT Taxes, as if those who received more did not also benefit. In this regard, they have tried unsuccessfully to hide from the ever-growing accusations of discrimination, which is now being decried by many and relayed in glowing language by the diplomatic community.
In the end it must be the Guyanese people, who must raise their voices in unison against the oppressive conduct of Government. It is the Guyanese people, who must decry bad governance and demand stewardship and value for money from this Government. Without this, we the people would be doomed to lives of misery, despite the wealth bestowed by God on this land. We as a people must take a stance against this treachery that threatens our very existence. We must stand up against the circumstances that pauperises us from the time of achieving adulthood to the time we are called to our maker. We must militate against the pressures that enslaves us, even though we are freeborn. We must stand in unison.
To achieve good governance, the GPSU calls on civil society to genuinely unite to vanquish the hypocrisy and divisive acts that seems to be the hallmark of Government. There is only one route to conquer the current political trends and that is through embracing national unity.
Notwithstanding the insensitivity displayed by the Government to the plight of Public Servants consciousness and commitment to goodwill should not be lost at this time, but instead thought should be given to how to conclusively address this problem where Government continues to deny workers of representation and benefits.
GPSU is therefore calling on everyone, notwithstanding the insensitivity of the Government to have a safe, healthy and pleasant Christmas, while taking timeout to contemplate on the way forward, until the new year when GPSU would also share thoughts.
The GPSU would therefore like to wish all Guyanese, including its members and officers, a happy and joyous Christmas holidays, even considering that some, because of financial restrictions, may enjoy just one special meal during this season of goodwill.