Public Service union rejects 5% pay hike

-issues ultimatum for restart of negotiations
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has rejected the government’s imposition of a 5% across-the-board pay hike for public servants, while threatening “serious consequences” for labour relations unless there is a return to the bargaining table in a week’s time.

“Be informed that the [GPSU] rejects the arbitrary determination and unlawful imposition of a five percent (5%) on public sector workers’ salaries and wages,” acting GPSU General Secretary Deborah Murphy wrote to Public Service Ministry Permanent Secretary Hydar Ally, in a letter dated December 6, 2012.

Breaking its silence a week after the announcement of the award on Thursday, the union released Murphy’s letter to Ally and issued a call for support for its cause. The letter was copied to President Donald Ramotar, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Public Service Minister Jennifer Westford, Labour Minister Nanda Gopaul, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, acting Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle, Opposition Leader David Granger, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director General Guy Ryder and general Secretary of Public Service International (PSI) Sister Rosa Pavanelli.

At the time of the announcement of the award of an increase, retroactive to January 1, 2012, the government and the union were still negotiating a new multi-year wage agreement.

In the letter, Murphy reminded that the union and the government have a legally-binding agreement for the Avoidance of Settlement of Disputes (AASD) and said that the decision to impose the increase was in conflict with the agreement, the Trade Union Recognition Act, which requires negotiations in good faith and the country’s ILO obligations.

“Hence the GPSU is demanding that you as the government’s representative act in good faith, in accordance with the government’s obligations under the AASD, the laws of Guyana and ILO Convention 151,” Murphy wrote to Ally.

“Finally we are demanding that you return to the bargaining table to continue discussions on the issues of wages, salaries, increments and allowances etc, for the Public Service for 2012 within one week of the date of this letter. Failure on your part to do so will have serious consequences for the labour relations environment of Guyana,” she added.

Government has arbitrarily assigned pay increases for public servants for over a decade now and prior to the announced increase, President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) Patrick Yarde told a news conference that after months of futile wage negotiations, the union was willing to accept a 9% interim payout from government, failing which the workers will resort to industrial action.

In a statement accompanying Murphy’s letter, the GPSU condemned the imposition of the increase as “executive lawless conduct” and an “abuse of trade union rights.”

It added that it is clear that despite a change in leadership after the last general elections a year ago, the working class is receiving more of the same, including abuse, non-compliance with legally binding agreements, disregards for the laws and violations of the ILO conventions.

Yarde, who is attending the PSI 29th World Congress, in Durban, South Africa, informed congress officials of the development, the GPSU said, adding that there was a call for affiliates to express solidarity with the GPSU and protest the government’s actions. “By the end of the session, the GPSU had received from affiliates in attendance approximately 100 signed expressions of solidarity and condemnation of the PPP’s regime’s anti trade union action,” it noted.

Yarde also agreed that Murphy should convey a recommendation to union members to be prepared to take action to have the situation resolved in their favour. “The GPSU demands that the PPP/C regime must respect that they are dealing with the workers living in a free and democratic society that have constitutional rights and must desist from the behaviour of suppressing and treating them as if they are dealing with their property. Furthermore, the union calls on all organisations, workers nationally, and the citizenry who are law abiding and believe in fair dealings and even handedness to support our cause,” it added.

Yarde had earlier told Stabroek News of his dismay that government was not acting in good faith in the negotiations, in which the GPSU sought a pay increase of 25% and other conditions for public servants as well as firm commitments from government for serious discussions on the proposals made since 2009.

The workers eligible for the announced increase, which is retroactive to January 1, 2012, are those employed in ministries, departments not under ministerial control, regional administrations as well as those who are engaged on contracts against positions reflected on the inventory of the traditional public service and those who are contracted against positions that are not on the inventory.

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