President appeals to unions to accept 7 percent salary increase

Last Updated on Friday, 26 November 2021, 8:56 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali.

President Irfaan Ali on Friday appealed to trade unions to take the 7 percent retroactive wage and salary increase for this year, and dismissed the call by the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) for a full payout of the GY$10 billion allocated for annual emoluments.

“I appeal to the unions to take off their political hat, take off their political hat and put on their hat of reality, the hat of fairness and, in a comprehensive way, they too should applaud the government,” he said in a more than 30-minute long extemporaneous reaction to criticisms of the across-the board pay increase.

The President, however, stayed clear of repeated calls by the GTUC and its members- the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) for collective bargaining for wages, salaries and other conditions of work.  In light of global economic conditions, he said many other countries have suspended wage negotiations while others like the United Kingdom have frozen wages from 2020 to 2022, and a number of Caribbean Community countries have not increased wages since 2015 offered  while others have hiked by 4 percent.

Dr. Ali said select categories of public servants are expected to get further increases in salaries next year after a staff rationalisation is completed based on qualifications and comparable positions across. “This is for the specialised skill-sets, the specialised education sets that the country needs,” he said.

In seeking to justify his administration’s 7 percent pay hike for 2021, he referred to cash grants that had been disbursed to Guyanese since his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) returned to office in August, 2020. “That is why we said we are not only concentrating on salaries, we are concentrating on welfare too because the welfare measures put back more monies in the pockets of public servants, increasing the power of the disposable income,” he said.

The GTUC earlier this week called on government to  pay the GY$10 billion that have been allocated in the 2021 for public sector wages and so deliver a 14 percent pay increase for this year  in line with a spike in cost of living.  That trade union body has given the Guyana government until December 3, 2021 to give into its demand, but has not said what would be the next step.

But the President explained that the GY$10 billion was not only for wages and salaries, but for adjustment of salaries during the year during promotions and the employment of additional persons.