Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 21:00 by GxMediaAs public servants gradually intensify protests against a five percent pay increase for this year, government’s spending of billions of dollars on wages and salaries is expected to come under scrutiny in the National Assembly.
Opposition Leader, David Granger said A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) would raise the issue in the 65-seat House when it meets on Thursday. “It will come up in parliament, yes.” He said a question would be asked.The APNU Chairman pledged his coalition’s support for the protest while at the same time it did not want to politicize the workers’ action at this time because the process has not been exhausted. “This is a matter between the Guyana Public Service Union and the Government of Guyana and we would like to see the government respect the negotiation process, respect the collective bargaining agreement and go back to the negotiation table,” he said.
Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan said his party would ask the government to show how it spent GUY$44 billion on wages and salaries for 2013. If the Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh refuses to provide details in the House, Ramjattan said he would be taken to the Economic Services Committee to provide details on how the money was allocated.
“If not we are going to ask the Economic Services Committee for the Minister (of Finance) to come and explain this thing,” he said.
He said an estimated GUY$40 billion were allocated for total employment expenditure for all government employees plus another GUY$4 billion for increases in wages and salaries towards year-end. The AFC wants details on all promotion costs to account for the GUY$4 billion.
The AFC Leader’s position came against the background of a senior Finance Ministry official explaining that GUY$4 billion were set aside to not only cater for an increase in public servants pay-packets but also for salary increases due to promotions and the recruitment of additional persons.
Ramjattan accused government of using the money for “some slush fund” because he was sure that the House had approved cash for at least a 10 to 15 percent pay increase for this year.
President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), Patrick Yarde wants the National Assembly to declare that government employees need more than the five percent that government says it can afford for 2013. “I would like the National Assembly to discuss it and make a declaration and if they make a declaration let us see what the government ministers will say about it and then what they will do it,” Yarde told Demerara Waves Online News.
He also echoed the AFC’s demand for government to “produce the evidence to show that money” was spent on promotions and new recruits. “What they are doing is hiding information, making wild statements that they can’t back up and we will even go to court to demand it,” added Yarde.
The GPSU’s General Council is yet to meet to decide on issuing a strike ultimatum to government.
Disclosure by APNU and AFC that they will take the matter to the National Assembly came even as more than 100 nurses from Georgetown, Linden and West Demerara hospitals converged outside the Office of the President to demand more pay. They held placards and chanted slogans including “No money, no work” and “Work we like donkeys, pay we like junkies.”
General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis wants the opposition-controlled House to pronounce on what he deemed the unconstitutionality of unilateral increases and the imposition of wage increases for12 years now.
“We want to see first and foremost that right respected, the Executive (government) meets with the union and seek to have this matter of wages and salaries for public servants negotiated,” Lewis told Demerara Waves Online News.
Lewis argued that the broader was not about a five percent increase but about enjoying the right of Collective Bargaining as prescribed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention.
The opposition, he said, needed to give leadership on those issues rather than just talking about them.
The Ministry of Labour is yet to decide when it will meet the GPSU for Conciliation Talks.