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Govt ministers salaries: “If you want to get rich, go in the private sector”- GTUC General Secretary

FLASH BACK: General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis (at podium) holding hands with Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo at the 2015 Enmore Martyrs Day rally.

General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis on Friday expressed grave dissatisfaction with the secret manner in which government increased ministers’ salaries and stressed that if elected officials do not want to serve they should get into business for profits

“Public service- it is not the money that you receive that matters, it is what you can do for the people who have elected you,” Lewis told a news conference.  He told the already highly paid public servants to get out of office and get into business if they want to become rich. “You can’t say that ministers are not being paid properly because they are making much more than what the normal public servant or the miner is making but what I am saying to you is if you want to get rich, go in the private sector,” he said.

Noting that profit is associated with the private sector, the outspoken trade unionist said the politicians have not come to grips with their roles to deliver public service. Lewis said that now the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) is out of power, the coalition government has not demonstrated that it is that different. “We have lived to get rid of the PPP, the new coalition come into power and they are doing almost the same thing,” he said.

The GTUC President rubbished reasoning by government ministers that a 50 percent hike in their salaries would help to discourage them from being taking bribes and kick-backs. He said other measures should include their mandatory declaration of assets to the Integrity Commission by parliamentarians across the board.

Government has said that it would strengthen the laws governing the Integrity Commission to empower that body to go after those who fail to declare their assets.

Lewis chided government for failing to justify the ministers’ pay increase and it “has not been properly packaged and sold” rather than the media finding out from the Official Gazette.

Unlike the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) taking its desire for increased salaries to the Public Service Commission of Inquiry, the President of the GTUC  says no wage and salary issue should be dealt with by such a body but through the internationally recognized process of collective bargaining. “Wage and salaries in the public service and the public sector have to be addressed by negotiations across the table between the unions and the government and government agencies,” he said.

Lewis said the time has come for government to stop pronouncing on wages and salaries and instead abide by Guyana’s Constitution and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on collective bargaining.

President David Granger recently said the issue of increased salaries for teachers would be addressed by the Public Service Commission of Inquiry. The Teachers Union has already agreed to appear before the commission.

The Teachers Union is bitterly upset at the hike in ministers salaries especially coming just after four months in office.