City workers awarded $38M retroactive pay hike

– partial payout to begin soon

City Hall workers represented by the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) are slated to receive retroactive payments in the sum of $38.5 million after an arbitration panel adjudged a 7% increase in their wages for the two previous years.

Hamilton Green

There is now concern as to how the payments will be made by the cash-strapped municipality. At the first statutory meeting of the year held yesterday, Georgetown councillors disagreed over how the money should be paid. A meeting with the GLU is scheduled for today where arrangements will be made to pay part of the owed money. Agreements will have to be made to pay the rest later in the year.

Compulsory arbitration was imposed to resolve the dispute between the Mayor and City Council and the GLU by Minster of Labour Manzoor Nadir. The parties had been at loggerheads over the increase in wages and salaries for 2007 and 2008, forcing the minister’s intervention.

Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, who is also Chairman of the Finance Committee, was of the opinion that the council was not ably represented on the tribunal, since the report indicates that City Hall had the potential to collect its taxes and pay its workers but it did not. Councillor Patricia Chase-Green was vocal on the point that poor negotiations on the part of the city’s administration “led to this predicament.”

Councillor Garrett stated that leave passage should be withheld from senior workers who are represented by the Guyana Local Government Officers Union (GLGOU) and who have received 10% increases in their salaries already. Their money should be deferred to be paid later in the year and the money should go towards the retroactive payment for lower workers. Acting Town Clerk Yonette Pluck said she was not aware that leave passage was to be paid this month.

Mayor Hamilton Green said that the issue is a “sorry and sad” one but stressed that one set of persons should not be put out for the benefit of another group. Green said the issue of non payment of wages and salaries will forever plague the council because there just are not enough resources for the size of the staff. He emphasised the desperate need for restructuring, which has been on the council’s agenda for years now.

Green said the council is at a point where it cannot fix potholes that are within a few feet of City Hall’s Charlotte Street’s entrance. Additionally, its telephone, water and electricity services are constantly being cut off because of the huge sums of money owed to the utility companies. He said there are a lot of workers who are being paid but are not performing.

An example was given of road workers who were on the payroll for last year yet the council did not do any road work for the entire year. “You cannot have people being paid for idling and don’t have the money to pay them,” Green said.

Councillor Fitzgerald Agard said it was futile to once again talk of restructuring, when action was needed. He said department heads have shown reluctance to make lists of what each of their workers did and the council should do the research and present the lists. It can then be determined where shifts are needed and where persons will have to be let go.

Meanwhile, a motion was tabled by Williams to review the council’s relationship with Republic Bank. The motion which had originally contained words to the effect of removing the council’s account to another bank was amended after invention by Green, who urged the councillors not to “set out on an aggressive, contentious note,” rather to approach the bank, request an audience and hear its side of the story.

The motion resulted out of the bank’s reluctance to grant a $50 million loan when the city had needed the money to pay its workers’ wages and salaries last month. The bank made a written response to the municipality dated January 6, stating that it would not grant the loan since the government had paid its taxes.

However, Williams said the city could have been spared the embarrassment if the bank had granted the request when it was made since December 24 last year.
He said the loan would have been paid back within two weeks with the money that the government delayed in paying and the workers could have been paid before the New Year. Instead, he said, the bank procrastinated, all the while saying it was awaiting a response from Trinidad.

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