The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) on Thursday said it was poised to issue a strike ultimatum to the government, even as nurses at the country’s major hospitals reported sick.
“We intend to intensify this struggle. We are prepared even to be civil disobedient and the people of Guyana must recognize that what results from what will happen is the government of Guyana is responsible by operating outside and above the law,” said union president Patrick Yarde. He refused to provide details of their planned action.
He said the GPSU’s General Council would meet shortly to concretize its decision to embark on industrial action to force government to pay the 15 percent allocated in the 2013 National Budget.
Government is offering five percent, a matter that was Thursday the subject of the commencement of Conciliation between the GPSU representatives and the Chief Labour Officer.
Yarde accused government of misusing some of the GUY$4,403,509 allocated by the National Assembly for the revision of public servants wages and salaries this year by spending it on infrastructural projects.
The GPSU delegation to those talks was expected to express displeasure at the slow response by the Ministry of Labour for conciliation since the request was made one month ago. “It is totally ridiculous and we are only now having the first meeting,” he said.
Yarde said the union moved to conciliation because of the Public Service Ministry’s (PSM) refusal to meet to discuss the issue of wages and salaries rather than a deadlock during negotiations. Public Service Minister Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford has, however, refuted the union’s claims that negotiations have not been held. She has said that she has correspondence to prove her case.
The GPSU charged that the Permanent Secretary of the PSM, Hydar Ally was a political appointee in whom the union had no confidence and regarded him as incompetent.
He provided statistics to show that the five percent or an estimated GUY$1 billion was a paltry sum for lowly paid public servants. The GPSU produced its own calculations to show that the lowest paid public servants who currently earn GUY$37,657 would now earn GUY$1,883 with the five percent. For more than 75 percent of the public service workforce, the increase would be less than GUY$2,500.00. A Meteorological Officer, Field Auditor and Staff Nurse would take home GUY$2,107 more after tax; an Accountant, Valuation Officer, Ward Sister, Superintendent of Works and a Guidance and Counseling Officer would earn an additional GUY$2,942 after tax and a Chief Accountant, Agriculture Officer, Fishery Officer and a Matron would earn GUY$3,583 after tax.
Among the hospitals hardest hit Thursday- day one of the planned two-day sick-out—was the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). Most Staff Nurses reported sick, causing the hospital to resort to trainee nurses and nursing assistants. They were functioning under guidance from supervisors and the very few Staff Nurses who turned out to work.
Also affected by the sick-out were the Linden, West Demerara and New Amsterdam Hospitals.