The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) yesterday accused government of being uncaring as a cabinet decision by the former PPP/C administration to have sweeper/cleaner workers benefit from a pay increase since 2013 is yet to be implemented.
At a press conference held at GPSU headquarters to highlight the issue, GPSU President Patrick Yarde said a Cabinet decision approved by the former PPP/C government catered for this specific category of workers to be paid the minimum wage of $35,000 per month retroactive to July 2013. The minimum wage has since been increased to $50 000.
He recalled while in opposition, President David Granger had spoken in support of the decision but to date the new administration is yet to implement it.
In August, during his budget presentation, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan announced an increase for sweeper/ cleaners within the education system who from September, he said, will be paid $312 per hour reflecting a 54 percent increase. The plight of sweepers/ cleaners had been drawn several years ago to the attention of APNU and the AFC who now make up the coalition government.
Yarde explained that because the PPP/C administration was voted out of office before the decision was implemented, the GPSU moved to submit the matter along with other issues to Granger in their first correspondence with the new administration. He said the GPSU had respectfully asked that urgent action be taken to resolve the longstanding issue which would “put an end to the abuse of these strategic, important and hardworking public servants.”
He related that several follow-ups were done including at a meeting at the Ministry of Finance on July 20th, 2015 where the matter was again raised with Jordan during discussion of budget proposals.
“It was disturbing and of serious concern to the union at what appears to be a reluctance to correct this situation and put an end to this abuse and most unfair treatment of these category of workers,” Yarde lamented.
“I genuinely felt that this matter would have been resolved a while ago and it hurts to think these workers would be experiencing another Christmas of discontent and this situation prevails apparently because of the unwillingness of strategic elements in the administration that are uncaring for these workers,” he said.
Asked whether the Granger administration has made any moves to implement the Cabinet decision, Yarde said it would appear that the government has increased the hourly rate from less than $202 per hour to $312 per hour. He said this means that sweeper/cleaners are paid a meagre monthly salary of $17,996, which is less than half of the minimum wage.
The union boss added that although these workers are contracted to work six hours per day, they actually work eight hours per day. He said moves are being made to determine how they are compensated for the extra hours.
Additionally, the GPSU hopes to address the topic of annual leave for these employees. “They are entitled to annual leave as stated by law, even as part time workers they are entitled to leave but they do the work of full time workers,” Yarde declared.
He said the union will remain resolute in having the issue rectified as they continue to hope that good sense will prevail and government will implement the decision.
In August, the GPSU had expressed dissatisfaction at government’s response to the call for the increase in sweeper/cleaner wages.
“These workers are full time workers who are there to keep the sanitary facilities in schools clean, ensuing that the students’ surroundings are healthy, conducive to learning and not left to the risk of an unhealthy environment. They are our future,” the GPSU asserted.
“We consider the response of $315 per hour disheartening and call on the Government to implement what was previously agreed to. The union in registering its disappointment with what was stated in the Budget…reiterated its position that this matter be addressed consistent with its representation”, the GPSU declared.
Although the sweeper-cleaners are unionized, Yarde could not say how many such employees are working in the public school system.