The Guyana government on Wednesday denied accusations by the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) that it violated laws by handing out a GYD$50,000 bonus to public servants without negotiations.
While the GTUC charged that the David Granger-led administration has breached Article 147 of the Guyana Constitution and the Trade Union Recognition Law Section 23 (1), Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman questioned which law government has flouted.
He explained that government considered the closeness of the Christmas Season and so opted to pay the bonus to public sector workers rather than engage in what could have been protracted negotiations.
“Were you to enter into protracted deliberations about whether or not public servants get their fifty thousand (dollars), I would rather suspect it would be given out in 2016 December.
I think government took a decision it thought was in the best interest of the workers going out to pay it out,” he said.
The Minister of Governance said the pay-out was not a sign of disrespect to the unions, but he acknowledged that it might have been a breach of the principle. “Maybe, it’s not a matter of law but of principle and we have already said that we are committed but the system is of such that it will take time. We have been broken for decades. It’s going to take time to get back to a notion or a degree of normalcy as we know it,” he told a news conference.
The GTUC has charged that the payment of the bonus without collective bargaining was contrary to a commitment by Minister of State Joseph Harmon following outcries by the Guyana Public Service Union about disregarding collective bargaining in an earlier arbitrary salary pay-out. The GTUC said Harmon had not only apologised for the contempt of the law but committed that such will not be repeated.
The GTUC noted that public sector workers would now expect an annual bonus, based on its decision this year. The government is advised that consistent with industrial relations principle this bonus is now part of the condition of employment for public servants. For while an employer can chose to put something in place, that employer has no authority under the law to remove it.
The GTUC said come 2016 and onward workers “shall be entitled to their year-end bonus unless the unions agree otherwise. There is an established precedent.”