…says Ministers’ 50% salary increase now unpardonable
With more than $6.8 billion set aside in the 2016 Budget to cater for salary increases for public servants—none of which was spent—the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is warning the Government to be guided by history, inclusive of the 1999 strike which lasted for 57 days that led to arbitration over the deadlocked salary talks.
GPSU president patrick yard
GPSU President Patrick Yarde over the weekend accused government of horse-trading over its publicly stated position that it will go ahead and make an arbitrary award in face of the union’s refusal of the differentiated 10% to 1% salary increases for public servants.
Yarde has since also sought to remind the parties that form the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) government, that it had campaigned on a promise to pay public servants decent wages/salaries.
According to Yarde: “Rather than address workers’ wages/salaries and conditions of work, the government instead opted to increase its own salaries by as much as 50 per cent.”
He said, “this act is unpardonable in this society…For the government to believe that their decision will be easily forgotten, much more has to be done at the bargaining table for workers not to believe that the increases paid to the cabinet and MPs were not self-serving.”
Yarde, in his public missive over the weekend, said the outcome of any negotiation that is considered just, is one where the results are agreed upon by the parties involved.
He said the GPSU rejected the wage/salary offer and for the government to state that the position put forward to the union is final; and it will go ahead and implement it even if the union has not accepted same, is a breach of trust and can be described as evidence of bad faith negotiations.
He proclaimed that, “negotiation requires constructive engagement, built on mutual respect, which would guide arriving at a package agreed on by the employer and workers’ representatives…This government has failed in upholding these basic principles, and is urged to learn and be guided by the lesson of history, and return to the negotiation table.”
Seeking to draw reference to history and precedent, Yarde said: “Industrial relations are not about gut feelings…They are guided by a body of knowledge grounded in conventions, time-honoured principles, established rules and laws.”
According to Yarde, “representatives of this government are advised of the importance of arming themselves with an understanding of these tenets or they will continue lurching from one crisis to another on matters pertaining to workers’ welfare…There are precedents in this society which can serve as guides as against the present big stick method being pursued.”
He pointed to the fact that in 1999 the Janet Jagan government had decided that it will respond negatively to the public sector unions’ demand for an increase in wages/salaries, on the pretext that the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Programme prevented offering a decent increase.
He said the government felt the trade union was weak, but underestimated the workers who were enraged by the treatment, mobilised among themselves, and proceeded to strike action and the union leadership had to comply.
The GPSU head recalled that the 1999 strike lasted for 57 days and the parties had to resort to arbitration to have the matter resolved.
He also referred to the similar salary talks breakdowns in 1979 and 1964 salary impasse for public servant’s wages and said “One would have expected that these experiences would serve as lessons to guide negotiations with the GoG and the GPSU and the GTU.”
GPSU this past week rejected the final offer made by government for salary increases for public servants even as Guyanese Head of State, President David Granger said in such an eventuality government would be prepared to go ahead and make an arbitrary payout.