The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) will over the next three days decide its next move, especially since government effectively ruled out giving into demands for hefty wage and salary increases.
GPSU President, Patrick Yarde said the issue would be discussed at the union’s 20th Biennial Conference being held from September 25 to 27 under the theme “Relentlessly Pursuing Good Governance, Decent Work, Social and Economic Justice”.
“That’s what the conference will determine. This is the highest forum. I’m not going to prejudge it. I’m not going to say as if I’m autocratic about it,” he said.
A motion on the issue of wages and salaries is expected to be passed by Friday.
Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, in his address to the opening of the conference acknowledged the need to pay public servants a “living wage” but virtually painted a bleak picture of anything near a 25 percent increase being paid. Instead, he cautioned that wage and salary hikes could again fuel inflation and depreciation in the real value of such increases.
“We must recognize and respect the need for fiscal discipline and macroeconomic stability. This essentially, in my view, is one of which needs patience and hard work and continued hard work,” he said. Hinds said Guyana has made great improvements over the last 20 years- the unbroken tenure of the Peoples Progressive Party Civic-led administration. He stressed that difficult financial discipline should be a sound basis for growth and development rather than just paying higher salaries.
Government usually hands out a low single-digit percentage retroactive increase at the end of each year.
Hinds recalled that a major comprehensive review of government in the late 1980s had resulted in grave inconsistencies such as wide income gaps between foreign-paid and local managers.
While the GPSU boss recommended that the 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) should be halved, the Prime Minister said that regime was aimed at capturing otherwise evaded taxes.
Earlier the GPSU President recalled that while government had claimed in 1999 that it was constrained by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to pay a three percent increase for 10 years, an Arbitration Tribunal had ruled that 31.01% should have been paid in 1999 and 26.66% in 2000. That, he said, exposed the farce, in that even after the payments in those years because in 2001 the lowest inflation rate was 1.6%
The GPSU President accused government of ignoring several requests to hold urgent negotiations on the union’s proposed multi-year wages and salaries agreement for the period 2013 to 2015. The union’s first request was made in May 2013. “Notwithstanding several reminders, to date we have not met. This conduct is in conflict with the Government’s obligation under the Agreement for the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes,” stated Yarde.
The union had also wanted government to use the already approved GUY$4.404 billion dollars for wages and salaries this year to pay a 15 percent increase pending the outcome of the requested negotiations. “There has been no response to this representation,” stated the union president, while suggesting that it may be due to apparent malice and grudge and a reason to create the conditions for disgruntlement and disruptive behaviour. “There appears to be the absence of a willingness to pay Public Servants in general, adequate and acceptable increases in wages, salaries and allowances.”