Jordan signals plans to revive incremental pay scales for public servants

Finance Minister Winston Jordan has announced plans to establish incremental scales and performance-based bonuses for public servants.

Speaking to the Government Information Agency (GINA) about his first year in office, Jordan said that he desires a quick conclusion of negotiations with unions so that increases for public servants would be a smooth disbursement rather than a lump sum.

“I hope to see, for example, the return of increment. I mean, years ago salary increases never happened. You had increment… I believe we have to get back there because, annual increases of salaries, I don’t think it gives the workers confidence,” he was quoted by GINA as saying.

Last Friday, the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Public Service was handed over to President David Granger, thereby bringing wage negotiations with the unions closer. The president explained that before the negotiations can be completed, the Cabinet and the various unions will be given an opportunity to study the report. The report will also be shared with the Leader of the Opposition and, eventually, when deliberations have been completed, it will be submitted to the National Assembly.

These deliberations will also be followed by the ministries of Social Protection and Finance engaging the relevant unions in negotiations. The process outlined by the president suggests that collective bargaining, which the Trades Union Congress has called for, may take a few months yet.

In March, Jordan had said that public service workers should not expect big salary increases. However, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the main public sector union, later expressed concern that the minister’s remarks may prejudice negotiations and said they were inappropriate. While public servants will receive an increase in salaries before the country’s next budget is presented, Jordan had said Guyana has been warned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to monitor its spending and has been heeding the advice. “We have been urged to keep a close look at our current spending. This also is what we have ourselves been keeping a close eye on so what the Fund has done is more or less re-emphasise, more or less, what we have been doing. There is no way we can be spending out of control given the scenarios that we have as it relates to revenues and how we do mobilise our resources,” he said.

“As an economist and the Minister of Finance, I can only say that I agree with the IMF on this particular front and from (the) time I came in, I have been advising caution as it relates to wage increases and meeting exaggerated demands for wage increases. Even in good times, paying exaggerated salaries have serious short and long term impacts,” he added.

The GPSU had said that what it finds particularly disconcerting is that reportedly in response to a question regarding negotiations for a pay increase for public servants, Jordan allegedly said “I don’t know about room to negotiate…we will negotiate a salary increase that is sustainable and that we can meet with projected growth.”

The union said in its view, these are not the words of an individual who is amenable to negotiations, but one who comes to the table with preconditions that taint the negotiating environment long before the discourse even begins.

There was no increase for public servants in the budget presented earlier this year. In light of a hefty increase that was instituted for cabinet members since last year, the government was heavily criticised for the omission.

Meanwhile, Jordan, in looking ahead to the next 12 months, said that he does not support the idea of an annual budget being presented and passed within the fiscal year it covers. As a result, he will be working with his team at the ministry and other stakeholders to see if budget 2017 can be presented before the start of the new year. He, however, cautioned that this is easier said than done.

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