November 24 ,2021
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) yesterday wrote President Irfaan Ali seeking an urgent meeting on the 7% wage hike for public servants and contending that a higher award should have been made in keeping with the sum allocated in this year’s budget
GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis, in the letter released to the press yesterday, said that it has had discussions with the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and they have rejected the 7% in light of “rampant” inflation and the rise in the cost of living.
“Your Excellency, you are also aware that the National Assembly approved $10 Billion in the 2021 budget for increases in pay to Public Servants. This line item appears under the Ministry of Finance, in the estimates.
“The 7% proposal, amounts to about $4.2 Billion (gross) cost to the treasury. This amount is taxed, so the treasury claws back some of this money; in the circumstances, and based upon consultations within our unions, we now urgently request a meeting with you to discuss the way forward.
“It is not unreasonable to demand that the monies approved by the National Assembly, be paid for the purpose so directed, which would be slightly above 14%”, Lewis said in the letter to the President.
Lewis also contended that Guyana is now an oil economy and the traditional economy is no longer an argument. He added that the low wage structure must now be a thing of the past.
He told the President that he expected to hear from his office by Friday 3rd December, 2021 by 15:30 hours.
Lewis said that the meeting would also seek to ensure a return to Collective Bargaining, as required by the International Labour Organisation Conventions.
The GPSU itself on November 19 wrote to President Ali decrying the imposition of the 7% and calling for it to be treated as an interim figure while negotiations begin for the years 2020 and 2021 on increases in wages, salaries and allowances.
In the letter signed by First Vice President, Dawn Gardener, the union also told the President that the imposed increase conflicted with government’s obligations under the constitution and the Trade Union Recognition Act. The union also cited the legally binding Memorandum of Agreement for the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes between the GPSU and the Ministry of Public Service.
“This unlawful action was undertaken during ongoing representation by the GPSU, which was vigorously pursuing the need for negotiations with the Ministry of the Public Service and had legitimate expectations that that would take place. The copies of all correspondence were copied to you with the hope of Presidential intervention, but sadly this has not been the case”, the union wrote.
The union told the President that he had only recently committed on national television to act in accordance with the constitution and the laws of Guyana but that what had transpired with the imposed increase was a “blatant disregard of your commitment”.
On November 19, the GPSU also wrote Attorney General Anil Nandlall calling on him to pronounce on the legality of the imposed wage increase.
“As the Cabinet Member and Advisor to the Government, who is responsible for ensuring that the Government of Guyana conducts the affairs of State and all other responsibilities in conformity with the Constitution and the Laws of Guyana and the individual Oaths of Office, the GPSU is disappointed that you have denied us the privilege of sharing your legal interpretation of our position in these matters.
“It is hoped that on this occasion you may take the initiative and provide the Government with guidance to act in accordance with the Constitution, Laws of Guyana, International Labour Organisation Conventions, particularly Convention 151 Labour Relations (Public Service), which was unanimously ratified by the Parliament of Guyana and are in force, together with all legally binding agreements. The GPSU is also now requesting to be informed of your candid and professional legal opinion in this matter”, the letter also signed by Gardener said.