Scores of labourers attached to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) on Monday staged a demonstration in the compound of City Hall to protest the delay and non-payment of their salaries.
This is following the passing of the date agreed upon for the release of their monthly and retroactive remunerations, and as such, the city workers are demanding their hard-earned money.
At the forefront of the demonstration was General Secretary of the Guyana Labour Union, Carvil Duncan, who defended the rights of the labourers by highlighting the inconvenience brought on by this delay. In fact, he noted that this matter continues to affect the livelihood of the city workers, as it persists on a monthly basis.
Duncan, in outlining what prompted the protest action on Monday, said, “They said that they will pay on or before Wednesday (of last week); the workers were not paid. There is some retroactive payments for 2015 and 2016 that ought to be paid in September, but that has not been paid. So the workers thought it best to come down to City Hall to find out what exactly is going on.”
The Union Representative further pointed out the ways in which this non-payment of monthly earnings disrupts the lives of the workers, and more so prevents them from catering to the needs of their families. On that note, he argued, “They have obligations, and that is why they work. They expect that they provide you with the labour power and in return you will pay them whatever salaries they earn, so that they can meet their social obligations.”
Duncan indicated that the City Council has pinned the blame for the delay in payment on the lack of finances. However, joined by the workers, he questioned the logic of this excuse, given that the Council allegedly continues to employ a number of new clerical staff, a decision which was dubbed unnecessary given that they believe the field workers contribute to the more significant aspects of City Hall’s operations.
“The Town Clerk is saying that they have financial difficulties, which we know, and as a result of that, he can’t make the salary. But my major problem is: if you can’t and you’ve been encountering those difficulties for a few months, why you constantly taking on people to increase the salary bill and you can’t pay the present staff that you got?” Duncan contended.
Meanwhile, in defending the Mayor and City Council, Town Clerk Royston King pointed out that City Hall’s income of about $80 million falls below that of its monthly payroll, which amounts to in excess of $110 million.
Further, he explained that revenues which were expected to be generated from a number of projects are no longer a possibility, given that several ventures have either been suspended or have not materialised.
Nevertheless, King indicated that the release of salaries has commenced. He noted, “We have already started paying people last week. At least half of the staff, or little more than half, have already been paid, and we are working now to pay the rest of the staff by the end of Wednesday (of this week).”
As such, the Town Clerk is calling on the labourers to be patient as the M&CC works to resolve the matter. “I wish to ask workers to be patient with us, to understand, and to see what is happening. It is a very tight financial situation, but we are moving speedily to have this resolved,” he expressed.
The M&CC currently employs in excess of 900 workers, a number which comprises both in-house clerical staff and sanitation officers operating in the field. Given the financial restrictions, the job security of the workers is now being threatened, with some even expected to be redeployed or sent home in the coming weeks.
According to the M&CC in a statement following the protest, “The council would need to revisit and review it staff and the way it organizes its work to deliver services to communities. The Human Resource Department is in the process of doing that with a view to reduce the current payroll.” (Ashraf Dabie)