Emphasising that the time for negotiations on wages, salaries, and allowances for public servants is overdue, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has written to President Dr Irfaan Ali on the issue.
This was disclosed by GPSU First Vice President Dawn Gardener during a press conference on Wednesday at the Union’s Secretariat.
Gardener said that negotiations on wages, salaries, and allowances for 2020 and 2021 were a “crucial matter” affecting members of the GPSU. According to her, in early March, the GPSU penned a letter to the Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Ministry, Soyinka Grogan requesting a meeting to commence negotiations. That approach, Gardener noted, was taken in keeping with clause six of the legally-binding agreement between the Government and the GPSU.
To date, Gardener said that the GPSU has not received a response from the Permanent Secretary. As a result, a reminder was dispatched on Wednesday, and a copy was sent to President Ali. Copies of the reminder were also sent to Prime Minister Mark Phillips; Public Service Minister Sonia Parag; Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh, and Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC.
In the reminder letter dated March 30, 2021, the GPSU writes, “The Union is therefore giving a gentle reminder that the last salary increase to public servants was with effect from January 1, 2019, thus making it more important and urgent to commence negotiation for wages, salaries and allowances for the years 2020 and 2021.”
“The GPSU is most concerned with the Government’s conduct in dealing with this essential and urgent matter that is devastating the livelihoods of public servants and their families,” the Union’s First Vice President noted.
During a statutory meeting held on Wednesday, the GPSU revealed that extensive deliberations on the matter resulted in several unanswered questions.
According to Gardener, “the situation that prevails for public servants [is that] they are providing quality services for the two years without any meaningful economic improvement in their earnings and [are] being pressured to perform in an increasingly deadly environment.”
Meanwhile, GPSU President Patrick Yarde disclosed that in keeping with regulations, the relevant authorities have at least two weeks to respond to the letters. He said that he believed there was a motive behind the delay in the commencement of the negotiations.
“Our members are restless and worried about this. They are agitated to take various forms of action. We are at the moment emphasising some restraint and we are hoping that good sense would prevail… we do not want to be hasty in doing disruptive things,” Yarde related.
According to him, some of the workers affected by the delay are the staff of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA); the Judiciary, nurses, air traffic controllers, drainage and irrigation personnel, sea defence staff, public health inspectors, and law enforcement officers.
Taking this into consideration, Yarde noted, “You could understand what would be the impact if there is a reaction from our total membership. So, we are not anxious to deal with this. We are reminding the Administration that they have been acting in conflict with the agreement and they should take action to correct it.”
He, nevertheless, stated that the GPSU was governed by rules and to take other forms of action, a meeting would have to be called “and the members, in keeping with the democratic process, will give the mandate to the leadership”.
“At the moment, the mandate that we have is to make a very concerted effort to see how best we could impress upon the Government to be humane … to stop this type of punishment they are putting public servants through,” Yarde added.