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FITUG gets little from pre-budget talks with Finance Minister

Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh meeting with representatives of FITUG at pre-budget talks

The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) has gotten little or no concrete assurance that workers will carry home more money this year through wage hikes and tax reliefs.

“The only thing beneficial is that we got a good understanding about how the government is performing but then is not that we went and we said we want ‘this’ and the government said ‘yes’ we are going to give you this,” FITUG General Secretary, Kenneth Joseph told Demerara Waves Online News on Saturday.

When FITUG representatives met with Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and his delegation on Thursday, they asked for 10 to 15 percent wage and salary hike for 2014. “We figure that the workers of this country need that as a start… That is the base for an increase for workers,” he said.

FITUG also wants a reduction in the 16 percent Value Added Tax on mainly local construction materials and an increase in the Income Tax threshold from GUY$50,000 to GUY$100,000.

Although FITUG was wary of usurping the right of individual unions to negotiate wage increases for all workers, Joseph said FITUG wants its demand to be used as a base from which its member-unions could hold talks with individual employers. The umbrella union body hoped that the wage increase suggested to the Finance Minister would benefit workers in the agriculture, the Georgetown municipality, fisheries, rice, and bauxite industry.

FITUG also wants the Tax Act to be amended for workers to once again claim allowances for dependents.

Joseph, however, said the Finance Minister did not give any assurance that their request for a wage hike would be favourably considered. ““Minister did not say yes that he agrees but what he did say is that it is something that the Finance Ministry is still looking at,” said Joseph.

Singh told the FITUG officials that he would investigate why VAT was still being charged on local building materials because they should have been zero-rated. The union also wants government to probe why some businesses were offering VAT-free prices taxable products.

FITUG also appeared to have left those talks without a firm commitment by government that the taxable income would be increased to any amount more than GUY$100,000.”He didn’t (give any commitment) but I don’t get the impression that would be done based on our discussions.

FITUG, with a collective membership of 35,000 workers, is made up of unions whose leaders are widely regarded as largely sympathetic to the government and the ruling Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC). They are the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Guyana Labour Union (GLU), National Association of Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the Clerical and Commercial and Industrial Employees (CCWU).