GPSU, gov’t pay hike talks opening ‘a transformational moment’ – Yarde

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is treating the current public service wages and salaries negotiations with the Government of Guyana as “the start of a process aimed at bettering the lot of public servants in a manner that goes way beyond the monetary benefits which we expect will derive from the process,” its President Patrick Yarde has said.

Speaking with Stabroek Business just after the conclusion of the first day of negotiations on Wednesday, Yarde said the start of the negotiations marked the beginning of “a corrective process aimed at restoring employer/employee relations in the public sector to its proper place. Wages and salaries may be at the top of the agenda but the agenda is much bigger.”

The long-awaited commencement of what is arguably the country’s most significant wages and salaries negotiations exercise since the Armstrong Arbitration Tribunal that followed the collapse of the 2001 Government of Guyana/GPSU wages and salaries negotiations, got off to a sedate start with the two sides issuing a joint media statement on Wednesday afternoon which said, among other things, that the union had agreed “to explore the government’s proposal for the differential approach to replace the across-the-board percentage increase” in wages and salaries.

Talks underway: The respective delegations from the Guyana Public Service Union and the Government of Guyana face each other on Wednesday at the start of what could be the country’s most important industrial relations encounter since the Armstrong Arbitration Commission.
Talks underway: The respective delegations from the Guyana Public Service Union and the Government of Guyana face each other on Wednesday at the start of what could be the country’s most important industrial relations encounter since the Armstrong Arbitration Commission.

Wednesday’s initial meeting also agreed on the setting up of a committee “to make recommendations to the negotiating team [GPSU and the Department of Public Service] on allowances for public servants as early as possible.”

On Tuesday, Yarde had fired off a letter to Minister of State Joseph Harmon pointing out that the minister’s letter to him providing the green light for the start of the negotiations had made reference to wages and salaries but had neglected to mention allowances.

The delay in the commencement of the negotiations had created a measure of uneasiness at the level of the GPSU with the union publicly hinting on at least two occasions that it was eager to commence the negotiations.

An intervention several weeks ago by Finance Minister Winston Jordan in which he declared that the union should desist from excessive expectations had triggered a sharp response from the union in which it expressed concern that the minister’s response might compromise the negotiations.

More recently, the GPSU appeared to grow even more uneasy after President David Granger announced that the start of the negotiations would have to await the completion of the deliberations of the Public Service Commission of Inquiry.

The negotiations having commenced on Wednesday, Yarde told the Stabroek Business that he believed that the union was now “in a better place” since it could now focus its mind fully on engaging government at the negotiating table. The veteran union leader said he considered the negotiations and their outcomes to be “a milestone” in the history of the GPSU. “I really do believe that this is a transformational moment in the history of the union and its members,” Yarde declared

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