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Ministerial pay increases must be used as benchmark in public service wage negotiations, GTUC tells Public Service Inquiry

Chairman and Commissioners of the Puiblic Service Commission of Inquiry. At right is Secretary to the Commission, Geeta Chandan-Edmond

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) on Thursday told the Public Service Commission of Inquiry (PSCOI) that it would be illegal for that probe team to discuss increased wages and salaries, but should persuade government to use its ministerial pay-hike as a “barometer” for paying public servants more.

The GTUC says the PSCOI, rather than recommend increased remuneration, should urge government and the respective unions to open pay negotiations. “GTUC suggests to that the commission recommends that the process of collective bargaining commence, and the recent increase to government ministers and parliamentarians be used as the barometer in arriving at a Wage Package for public sector employees,” said the GTUC in its submission.

Despite explanations about the need for parity between the salaries of ministers and judges, and the need to discourage ministers from engaging in corrupt practices, there has been a public outcry about the 50 percent increase in ministers salaries.

The GTUC, which was once the umbrella body for all trade unions in Guyana, also told the Commission of  Inquiry that wages, salaries and working condition in unionised environment by the traditional public service, teaching service, transport and harbour department, etc, wages and salaries are fixed through the Collective Bargaining process which is respected under Article 147 of the Guyana Constitution and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 98.

The A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition had promised on the election campaign trail a 20 percent pay hike for government employees and even more for police stationed in the interior and teachers. In the end, they got five percent.

According to that union body, the dismantling of the Wages Policy in the public sector must be revisited by way of introducing a comprehensive job Evaluation, “which will determine the content of the job, the remuneration it deserves, and put in place a system for paying increase based on performance.”

On the issue of contract employment, the GTUC recommended that all work that go beyond three months must be regarded as permanent employment and be subjected to the same terms and conditions laid down in the collective labour agreement and public service rules.

“The issue of tenure is important and must not be lost sight of if we are to build a competent public service. The public service is akin to career and one’s development. It is not designed to be a hustle and it has been gradually converted to within the recent years.

The act of introducing contract workers into the system is demoralising to those who have made a commitment to deliver public service. It is conventionally wrong to pay tenure worker $90, 000 to do a job and hire a contract to do the same job $500, 000 per month. It is demoralising and ought to be corrected,” said the GTUC in its submission.

Also recommended by the GTUC are an end to all forms of discrimination, including on the basis of sex, and the introduction of a mandatory health care system for the public service.

“The issue of Health care for Public Service be considered by this commission, since health care programme for employee is absent as a condition of their employment. This programme can be all inclusive and take on board coverage for parliamentarians and ministers of government,” said the GTUC