The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has up to press time remained silent on the APNU+AFC government’s unilateral imposition of a hike in public service wages and salaries but the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has condemned the action as “clear disrespect to [the] Constitution, laws and relevant ILO conventions which have long been ratified by [the] country.”
On Thursday Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced that government had made its final offer to the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU). The offer which increases the monthly minimum wage from $55,555 to $60,000 and offers a 0.5% to 8% tiered increase has been christened “what the economy can afford.”
However for GAWU at least this rationale is insincere. According to a statement from the union on Saturday, “with more prudent spending and less extravagance and unnecessary expenditure much more could have been found to give the workers.”
The union argued that while Government has approved pay rises amounting to 28 per cent over three years to its workers, it still represents just a little over half of what the Cabinet members were accorded months after they assumed office.
“That magnificent increase also has to be taken together with the several benefits and superb allowances enjoyed, including the recently contracted Medical Insurance which has seen State officials enjoying treatment in exotic places like Ireland,” the statement added.
Additionally the union questioned if monies spent on some of the more controversial government projects such as the “glorified drill square” (D’Urban Park) could not have been spent on “more substantial pay hikes” especially since workers must “contend with lesser disposable income and heavier burdens arising from the series of tax measures which have negatively impacted their and their family’s standard-of-living.”
GAWU also took aim at the negotiation process between GPSU and the government which it described as “mere theatrics meant to convey an impression of engagement.”
“The Government, despite its clear-as-day commitment to respect and observe Collective Bargaining in the public sector, has chosen to forcefully impose its will on public servants. The posture adopted smacks of clear disrespect to our Constitution, our laws and relevant ILO conventions which have long been ratified by our country. The Administration’s advisors need to tell those in charge that there is a Grievance Procedure which clearly sets out the modus operandi in cases of breakdown and deadlock at the bilateral level,” the statement stressed before noting that other unions including GAWU were not engaged.
In fact according to GAWU, sugar workers have not had an increase since 2014 and though they submitted their proposals to the GuySuCo several weeks ago they have received no response beyond an acknowledgement even though clear timelines are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement.
“Our nation’s hardworking sugar workers remain left in the cold. They have suffered tremendously when account is taken of nominal and real declines in their income. If GuySuCo’s [recent] admission is taken into account, the workers between 2015 and 2016 has seen their earnings declining by not less than 20 per cent. This is a substantial decline in such a short period and one which has brought about tremendous hardship for them and their spouses and their children,” the union said.
As such GAWU has called on the administration to end this “discrimination” so that sugar workers can benefit “like the compatriots in other sectors of the State’s employ, from a reasonable pay rise which could be reached without further delay at the bargaining table.”