The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) on Friday rejected outright government’s offer of a 1 percent to 10 percent wage and salary increase for this year and decided to begin the grievance procedure that could lead to arbitration, multiple sources said.
The sources told Demerara Waves Online News that the GPSU’s General Secretary would as early as next Monday pen a letter to the Ministry responsible for Labour (Ministry of Social Protection), requesting conciliation.
If conciliation talks end in a deadlock, the GPSU can request arbitration. The last GPSU-govt arbitration dates back to 1999 after a crippling 57-day strike. The Aubrey Armstrong-led arbitration had awarded a 31.06 and 26.66 percentage hike for 1999 and 2000 respectively, significantly higher than the 3 percent and eventually 4.6 percent across the board final offer by the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led government.
Demerara Waves Online News was told that the estimated 60 members of the GPSU’s General Council were extremely angry at government’s pay offer and more so President David Granger’s position that government would go ahead and make the payout even if the union rejects it because that is all the Treasury could afford. Granger has cited a fall in world commodity prices and the need to bail out the cash-strapped Guyana Sugar Corporation.
“People are saying that they have been betrayed and people are referring to the manifesto,” according to a source who is knowledgeable about the talks. The source said the participants at the Council meeting were most upset , saying that government ministers months after taking office following the May 2015 general elections awarded themselves a 50 percent salary hike. “They are all upset and they all rejected it and people are most upset by what the President (Granger) is reported to have said,” said the source.
Public servants are being urged to wear blue ribbons as a sign of solidarity in their quest for a 40 percent pay increase.
Both the GPSU and government had hailed the return to collective bargaining between the two sides for the first time in more than 10 years.
The government’s “final offer” is as follows:
Back in May, 2016 President Granger warned that lazy government employees would be poorly paid and he suggested a return to the merit increment system.
“We have to move back to a standard by which the performance of individuals is relative to performance and pay,” said the Head of State adding “many people who expect that there is going to be some bonanza will expect that the bonanza will come from their own efforts…If they want to be lazy they will get a lazy persons salary…if they work hard they will be rewarded.”
During last year’s general elections campaign, the Granger-led coalition had promised a 20 percent wage and salary hike. The Finance Minister, Winston Jordan and the Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan have both said that, in the case of security service personnel, government could not afford the promised 20 percent.