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GPSU leaves talks with Finance Minister virtually empty-handed

Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and his delegation meeting with the GPSU’s team led by its 1st Vice President, Mortimer Livan (blue shirt(.

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has asked Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh for a 45 percent wage increase for last year and this year an increase in the income tax threshold to GUY$100,000, according to a senior union official.

1st Vice President of the union Mortimer Livan , who was  a member of the union’s delegation that met Singh and his team on Friday, said the Finance Minister ruled out hiking the threshold and slashing the 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) by half.

“There are a lot of people who are getting little or nothing and they still have to pay tax. We have done our basket of necessities and it shows that under GUY$88,000 you can’t live comfortably,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com). The income tax threshhold is currently GUY$50,000.

Livan said the Finance Minister offered no committment on the requested wage and salary hike. “No, he didn’t do aanything. It’s just talking. We’re just talking. He didn’t promise us anything,” he said. The GPSU has said that most public service earn betwween the minimum wage of GUY$39,540 and GUY$72,823 (gross).

Government did not release any details about the separate pre-budget consultations with the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU).

On the issue of wages and salaries, he said the Finance Minister offered no commitment to the union’s top brass. He explained that the union proposed a 45 percent hike in wages rather than its original demand of 25 percent for 2013 and 35 percent for this year.

The governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has already warned the GPSU of demanding hefty increases that could trigger inflation, currency devaluation and reduced standard of living. That party has also urged the union to cease aligning itself with opposition forces to destabilise the country.

Noting that Friday’s meeting was the first with the Finance Minister since the GPSU began submitting proposals in 2008. Asked if the talks were a wind of fresh air or government was merely politicking, Livan said it “is a little of both”. He credited his union’s recent protests against annual imposition of wage and salary hikes for the talks.

“The fact that the public service has come out in protest, I think that has caused some movement,” he said.

The GPSU official dismissed the discussions with the Finance Minister as “just talk”, saying negotiations should be held with the Public Service Minister after receiving the union’s proposals. Should they fail, the next stages are conciliation and arbitration.

In the absence of government accepting requests for negotiations, the GPSU has taken its wage and salary dispute to conciliation. Only one meeting, the union, said has been held so far with the Ministry of Labour.