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Sweeper-cleaners yet to receive minimum wage

Then Opposition Leader, David Granger endorsing a GPSU picket outside Office of the President for better working conditions in the public service.

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) on Tuesday suggested that the coalition administration so far appeared to have given lip-service to the plight of the lowly-paid sweeper-cleaners in their quest to be paid at least the minimum wage.

President of that union, Patrick Yarde said current elected officials of the A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)-led administration had prior to the elections been sympathetic with sanitation workers at public schools.

Now, the APNU+AFC coalition  has been elected to government, Yarde said  the administration has failed to implement a decision by the Cabinet of the previous administration for the sweeper-cleaners to be paid the minimum wage of GYD$35,000 per month retroactive to July, 2013.

“While in opposition President Granger also gave a commitment…that the APNU supports an across-the-board minimum wage of fifty thousand dollars a month taking into consideration the cost of living. Minister Ramjattan, while in opposition also supported that these employees be paid at least the minimum wage,” GPSU 2nd Vice President, Dawn Gardener told Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma in a letter dated December 17, 2015.

The GPSU President barely credited the eight-month old administration with increasing the hourly rate from less than GYD$202 per hour to GYD$312 per hour. In effect, Yarde said they were merely being paid GYD$17,996 per month, a little less than the minimum wage.

“Unfortunately, an announcement was made in the National Budget for these employees to be paid at a rate of $312 dollars per hour. No mention was made of the breaches to be corrected…,” said Gardener.

While the sweeper-cleaners are contracted to be on the job six hours per day, five days per week; Yarde said they actually work eight hours.

Although the sweeper-cleaners are unionized, Yarde could not say how many such employees are working in the public school system.

In a letter to  the Junior Finance Minister,  the GPSU told him that several labour laws have been breached. These, the union says, are that the sweeper-cleaners are employed as contractors although the employer fixed the working hours and provided the material to carry out the work and that they must pay their own National Insurance Scheme and Income Tax.

The union also complained to the Finance Minister that that the contract for that category of sanitation workers did not include a meal break, they were denied gratuity or a pension and the contract did not provide for annual leave.