The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is pressing the government for a 14% wage increase for this year and for the wage deficit from 2002-6 to be taken care of but the government is standing by an offer of 8% for this year.
The union has said that it is concerned with the lack of progress in negotiations but it is looking forward to a meeting to be held sometime next week with officials at the Office of the President, when it hopes a decision will be arrived at.
The GPSU wants a 13.7% increase for public servants, which it believes the economy can comfortably afford, president Patrick Yarde told the media at a press conference held at union headquarters yesterday.
“Our economy is sustaining a series of things… We’re sustaining a stadium, international hotel and many other things, so we can afford to pay workers more,” he said
However Yarde offered no comment on what would be the union’s response if its demands were not met. According to Yarde, the union “is giving the government a fair chance and opportunity to respond to our requests and if there will come a time where we have to do something then we will do it but in the meanwhile we don’t want to confuse issues.”
He said there was a perception that the union was confrontational and so this time around it was avoiding certain assertions, since there is no intention to cause prejudice but rather to be rational in its approach.
Though pressured for a response as to what the union would do if its demands are not met, Yarde insisted that he would not get into such discussions at this time.
However the GPSU head explained that in June the union submitted proposals to the government for increases in salaries, wages and allowances for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.
But it was not until August 8, he added, that the union was able to engage in any meaningful discussion with the government.
“Not withstanding extensive levels of co-operation in these meetings to date, we have not received any requested information apart from being offered 7% and subsequently 8% across the board with no explanation in justification of such action,” he said.
According to Yarde, both offers were rejected and the union is asking that the government honours its commitment in previous agreements which clearly defined the modalities to be used in determining levels of increases in pay for public servants.
According to Yarde, the principles which determine the level of pay hikes were adumbrated in a commitment by President Bharrat Jagdeo in his capacity as senior minister of finance back in 1996.
He had stated in his budget speech at that time that, “Over the years, the trade unions representing public servants have been arguing, quite correctly, that actual take home pay is still inadequate… as a working class government we accept the legitimacy of these arguments and have been trying to weave these and other related variables into a public sector wages policy,” Yarde read as he quoted from the 1996 budget speech.
However he lamented that instead, government has since 2002 been imposing increases in conflict with the principles and commitments, “confining public service workers to deepened levels of poverty and deprivation.”
Yarde added that between 2002 and 2006, the government had paid a total of 10% less than what the inflation rate had been for that period.
The GPSU is adamant that with an inflation rate in excess of 13.5%, paying public servants below 9% is firmly condemning them to deepened levels of poverty.
Moreover, the union is concerned about government’s failure to publish monthly revenue returns, violating the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 by its failure to present the half year report by August 31, 2007.
This report has also not yet been made public neither has it been presented to Parliament, the union contended.
Yarde pointed too to the revenue already collected by government under the VAT system which he said is in excess of $7B for January to June. This, he said, is way above the originally projected target.
“All these constitute deliberate acts of frustration in conflict with the government’s election pledges of transparency and with oaths of office by officials to respect the constitution and laws of Guyana,” the GPSU president added.
The GPSU has advocated a multi-year pact. Yarde said the union is ‘fed-up’ of going year after year for negotiations and was adamant that both sides have persons with the ability to come up with a multi-year agreement.
However since the two are at loggerheads every year to settle single-year agreements, Yarde was quizzed about his confidence in going this way and he responded that he was not fearful of facing impositions from government.
“A signed agreement will give us legitimacy and something to hold them to and so I don’t fear any impositions if there is a signed agreement,” he asserted.