Sixteen staff members of the Bureau of Statistics on Friday held a peaceful protest outside the Bureau of Statistics headquarters to ventilate their disgust at the disregard of their concerns by management.
They said management failed to keep a promise to hold a meeting to address the issue of workers’ benefits.
One statistician said they had waited and tolerated the injustice long enough. She has been working with the bureau for a number of years and is concerned that when she leaves she would not be entitled to any pension.
The picketers were upset as they said management reneged on its word given at a meeting held some time last week. They said an intervention was made by the Public Service Ministry and the union and the management promised to hold a meeting on Thursday but failed to give a time for the meeting to commence and then called to cancel at the last minute. Another meeting was scheduled for yesterday morning, but was once again cancelled by way of a telephone call.
Dennis English, a representative of the union, said the previous industrial action was stopped by the proposed meeting which the staffers and union took in good faith but that has since been lost.
Picketers said that according to the system which now governs the bureau those persons that came across from the Public Service Ministry are in receipt of a pension and other benefits. However, anyone hired after that transition is not entitled to any benefits.
Pickets carried phrases such as “No Pension no Population count” and “Old staff, new staff we all getting the same salary”.
The protestors said the issues included the absence of a pension plan for persons who have retired and those about to reach retirement age. They also said that no gratuity is given for temporary staff.
They also said allowances were inadequate; they are not granted any duty-free allowance to purchase cars, which, in former years, was allotted based on years of service. Risk and out of town/travel allowances are also not allocated to them.
They also spoke up against “bunching”, which they say disallows deserving staff members from receiving salaries based on qualifications, years of service or experience and rather follows a system of preferential priority.
Critical vacancies are also not being filled by qualified persons. It was related that there are many persons in the organisation who possess the necessary skills and qualifications to fill vital vacancies within the company but are not being given the positions and this is done without them receiving any justification for management’s decisions.
They also are distressed over the board, which, as far as they know, is not functioning. They said the board members are unknown to them and the dysfunction of the board is directly reflected in the absence of precise rules and regulations to govern the employment of staff.
English said that despite the union and staff being flexible, the bureau is reluctant to conclude a collective bargaining agreement with the workers’ representative, the Guyana Public Service Union.
The protestors bore badges marked “peaceful protest”, refrained from chanting slogans and simply stood in front of the headquarters to let their signs be seen. However, they stressed that this industrial action is not going to blow over anytime soon as they are serious. They said they work very hard for the country and yet are being treated poorly, with salaries that can barely maintain them.