Gov’t announces unilateral wage hikes for public servants

For the third consecutive year, the APNU+AFC government has unilaterally imposed hikes in public service wages and salaries.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced at a post-Cabinet press briefing that government had made its final offer to the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU).

This offer increases the monthly minimum wage from $55,555 to $60,000. Additionally, those earning between $55,555 and $99,999 will receive an 8 % increase; those earning between $100,000 and $299,999 will receive a 6% increase; those earning between $300,000 and $499,999 will receive a 5 % increase; those earning between $500,000 and $699,999 will receive a 4% increase; those earning between $700,000 and $799,000 will receive a 2 % increase; and those earning between $800,000 and $1 million will receive a 0.5% increase.

It is expected to cost government $3.5 billion to pay the 14,000 public servants the increases, which are retroactive to January 1, 2017. Included in this number is 4,000 former contract workers who have been transitioned to the fixed establishment.

While Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Department of Public Service Reginald Brotherson has claimed that negotiations between government and the GPSU are held in a “spirit of cordiality and mutual respect,” he also noted that they were started less than a month ago and proceeded despite the GPSU’s position that the 2016 negotiations remain incomplete.

“The union is very strong in their belief that the 2016 negotiations was not concluded,” Brotherson said, while explaining that the union has referenced a letter, dated December 5, 2016, which said that negotiations on allowances, wages and salaries were incomplete.

The PS noted that while government acknowledges that negotiations on allowances are incomplete, its position is that the 2016 increases for wages and salary were final.

“The union has indicated that they will write the president on the issue but the government negotiation team feels they have completed negotiations,” he stressed, while adding that in the case of the 2017 offer, government analysts took into account the level of revenue and ability to sustain the increase given to the public service and gave an offer based on what the economy can afford.

Stabroek News reached out to the GPSU for comment on the publicised offer and was told to expect a statement today. “The union only received the official correspondence today, so a statement will be issued tomorrow,” the secretary to GPSU President Patrick Yarde told this newspaper.

On August 24, 2016, after two months of negotiations with the GPSU, the government’s negotiating team announced that its final offer to the union was differentiated wage increases for public servants ranging from 10% at the lowest scale to 1% at the highest.

The union, which had adjusted its initial demand of a 40% across-the-board raise to 25%, subsequently rejected the offer and requested a conciliation process to resolve the deadlock in the negotiations, as provided for in the agreement with government for the avoidance and settlement of disputes.

The agreement specifically states that if the union and ministry, represented by its Permanent Secretary, are unable to settle any grievances, the process shall proceed to the fifth stage of the grievance process, where either party within 14 days refers the matter to the Ministry of Labour for conciliation, failing which the process proceeds to compulsory arbitration.

This never materialised

Additionally, in 2015, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan announced as part of his budget presentation that public servants’ minimum salary would be increased to $50,000 per month and those earning above this would get a 5% increase plus $5,000.

Harmon had told reporters in August, 2015, that Jordan had said that this increase is temporary and had not been subjected to the usual process of negotiations with the unions because of the time constraints in preparing the budget. No negotiations occurred to realise a permanent increase.

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