Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 November 2021, 18:25 by Denis Chabrol
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) on Tuesday asked President Irfaan Ali to pay government employees an additional 7 percent retroactive increase in wages and salaries for this year, saying that workers in this oil-rich nation now deserve fatter pay packets.
The GTU said GY$10 billion was allocated in the 2021 National Budget for increases in pay to Public Servants. This line item appears under the Ministry of Finance, in the estimates.
“The 7% proposal, amounts to about $4.2 Billion (gross) cost to the treasury. This amount is taxed, so the treasury claws back some of this money; in the circumstances, and based upon consultations within our unions, we now urgently request a meeting with you to discuss the way forward.
It is not unreasonable to demand that the monies approved by the National Assembly, be paid for the purpose so directed, which would be slightly above 14%,” Mr. Lewis told the President in a letter dated November 23, 2021.
GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis- writing the Guyanese leader following talks with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU)- set 3:30 PM, Friday 3rd December, 2021 as the ultimatum for a response. The GTUC did not say whether it would advocate or take further action, although the GPSU has already called on public sector workers to embark on a work-to-rule.
The GTUC also backed up its demand for more money, citing a 14 percent inflation that has spiraled cost of living. “The principal unions reject the decision of the Government. They do this in light of the rampant inflation affecting workers and the sharp increase in the cost of living,” said Mr. Lewis.
According to Mr. Lewis, with Guyana now producing and exporting oil government could not reasonably argue that it does not have sufficient money to pay increased wages and salaries. “You are also aware that Guyana is now an oil economy and the traditional economy is no longer an argument and the low wage structure must now be a thing of the past,” he said. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo recently virtually ruled out hefty salary increases because of oil, saying that wages and salaries needed to be sustainable even after commercial oil deposits have been extracted.
He said the focus of government is improving the quality of life by improving infrastructure and the social sectors, as well as investing in renewable energy such as hydropower and solar energy.
The GTUC also asked the President to facilitate a return to Collective Bargaining, as required by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions.
Government has refused to negotiate salary increases with unions that are representing public sector workers.