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Public Service salaries were not negotiated, government says increases are temporary

Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon.

by Zena Henry

Amid heavy opposition criticism over the promised public service increases, the government has also admitted that it did not consult with workers’ unions over the pay increases.

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) in a statement said that it was not impressed with the government increases and accused them of carrying on with their proposed wage increase without speaking with the unions.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon stated Wednesday August 12 defended the absence of consultation with the unions on the grounds that there was need to table the budget in the National Assembly within a short space of time and the planned Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the public sector.

According to Harmon the current increase is temporary. “This is an increase which is temporary. It has not been subjected to the type of negotiations with the unions because of the time taken for this budget.”

Harmon noted, that what is clear is the appointment of the COI which is expected to be done before weekend or early next week. That inquiry headed by Professor Harold Lutchman would take into consideration salaries, working conditions, pay per qualification, training and promotions among several other issues.

Harmon said public servants and citizens among others woulf be able to give evidence about their experiences, concerns and issues in that area. “Public servant wages, increases of salaries and so on, will be part of that process which we hope to get started by next week… so that in the next budget cycle, apart from honouring our commitment to collective bargaining, we will put in place that commission which will allow for the union, the public service… to make presentations to commission.” The commission is then tasked with making recommendations to government.

Harmon highlighted that there are many challenges facing the public sector before going in-depth about poor work conditions for instance, to give credence to the COI.

Increases for public servants were a big seller for the new government’s election campaign. And with increases as high as 26 percent retroactive July 1, the government has come in for a hard hit from the opposition which says that all proposed increases should be divided in half since the money is payable for only half the year.

The government is thus accused of given citizens far less than what was promised and less than what the PPP was offering while in power.