GPSU highlights undue delay in pay hike talks with power company

The Guyana Public Service Union said yesterday that there has been an undue delay in negotiations for salary increases for workers at the Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL) and it will meet its members this week to decide on a way forward.

At a press conference at the GPSU Regent Street Headquarters, First Vice President of the union Mortimer Livan told reporters that GPL is currently the only state-run entity whose employees have not benefited from any increase in remuneration, nor from the “interim payment made to public sector employees of five per cent and $5,000 as approved in the national budget of 2015.”

The union is also claiming that the management of the utility company is “procrastinating in dealing with a multi-year agreement first submitted in 2013.” This delay is particularly troubling to the union now as the period for the 2013/2015 agreement comes to an end in a few weeks without the parties involved having completed negotiations.

As a result, the union has decided to call on its members to make a decision on the way forward, which may include industrial action up to and including strike action. The union members are expected to meet tomorrow.

The major contention between GPSU and GPL, according to Livan is the “dollar amount” of the proposed increase for the junior and senior managers represented by the union. This contention exists, he said, even though the total payment for the 131 represented workers would be less than the $27 million the deputy chief executive officer paid himself, “as back payment for increases in his salary and allowances.”

As it emphasised the pivotal and critical role being played by the employees of GPL, the union bemoaned the income disparity at the entity.

“There is need for urgent attention to be given to improving their remuneration and adequately and realistically addressing relativities recognized by the Arbitrators in 2007. The gap which now exist between the bands has to be adjusted,” Livan said.

According to documents shared with the media, GPSU has communicated to GPL that its members wish to have a five per cent salary increase for the calendar year 2015. This increase is inclusive of two per cent across the board and three per cent in scale increment.

The union has rejected the management’s initial offer of a two per cent salary increase. Also under contention is a proposed one-off payment of $120,000.

The union is asking for this payment to be added to the current annual salaries of junior and senior managers, with effect from January 2015, rather than be treated as a one-off payment.

There is also a request by the union for an increase in allowances including meal allowances (from $1,000 to $1,500) and travel allowances/ mileage (from $135 to $220). In a response dated December 8, GPL agreed to a 5% increase on the condition that GPSU raises “no other issue or matter related to increases in salaries for the year 2015.” The utility company also stated that it is willing to make a one-off payment of $120,00 which “shall not be taken or construed to be a payment to be added to the salaries at the respective scales which were paid in 2015.” Further GPL proposes to increase meal allowances to $1,100 and mileage allowance to $150.

Noting that the first and only negotiations for the year were held on November 18, the union expressed its concern over the delay by GPL’s management in giving attention to its proposals.

Union representatives also told media that they had communicated their concerns to Minister of Infrastructure David Patterson by way of letter on two separate occasions but have received no response.

Contacted by Stabroek News for a comment, Patterson said he was not sure whether his office responded to the letters but he was given the impression that an agreement of some sort had been reached between the two entities. He directed this newspaper to make contact with Divisional Human Resources Director Bal Persaud for details. When contacted, Persaud said he could not comment as he was “in a meeting.”

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