Jagdeo calls out Govt for poor public servants’ wages track record

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

…as Finance Minister says talks underway with unions

While Finance Minister Winston Jordan has promised that public servants can look forward to salary increases over the next two years, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is questioning the Government’s commitment to public servants, particularly teachers.

Jordan made this commitment during a press conference he held earlier this week, where he was asked what public servants can look forward to. According to the Minister, talks are presently ongoing in a bid to come to an agreement for wage increases with the unions.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan

The Minister was careful not to give details regarding these talks since they are still active. Regardless of the results of these talks, however, Jordan said Government would at least be paying interim increases.

“We will be paying a salary increase in (2019) and a bigger salary increase in 2020. We’re in discussions with the unions at the moment. There are two high-level committees who are engaging the two main unions.”

And we trust that they will be able to advance the negotiations to such a stage that we’re ready to make a payout. But even if there is a deadlock or no agreement, something interim will be paid,” Jordan said.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo cited the Government’s poor track record in wage increases and workers’ benefits. It is a track record that included even Jagdeo interceding with President David Granger on the side of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU).

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

“They want to announce how much they’ll give in the next term. All along, we had to fight, I had to make public statements, I spoke to the President personally. I said why can’t he meet with the Teachers’ Union? We had a multi-year agreement as a result of which they got a salary increase, a large number of duty-free vehicles for teachers.”

“We gave them a housing grant and every year a sum of money would flow from the treasury into that housing fund. We worked out a whole package and that was a multi-year agreement. The first three years of this Government, they failed to deal with non-salary benefits of teachers. It’s only after the No-Confidence Motion they started working on these things. Suddenly, they love teachers.”

Indeed, teachers have had a tough time with their salary increases, leading to an almost nationwide teachers’ strike last year.  It led to President Granger finally intervening by offering the Union a 10 per cent increase for 2016 and eight per cent for 2018.

The President’s move came days after Jagdeo had advised that Granger take a stand on the matter. That was also the second time that the President has been forced to intervene between the GTU and the Education Ministry to resolve the wage-related matters. In 2017, a high-level task force was appointed by him to oversee these matters.

When it comes to other public servants and the disciplined services, Government had approved retroactive salary increases of up to seven per cent last year.

These increases were set according to the various earnings of the workers.

For instance, workers between the $100,000 to $299,000 range got an increase of 6.5 per cent. In the case of public servants earning below $100,000, they received a seven per cent increase.

According to a circular that was issued, public servants with salaries ranging between $300,000 and $499.999 would receive a five per cent increase; while those that fall within the $500,000 to $699,999 bracket would receive a three per cent increase; $700,000 to $799,999 – two per cent increase; $800,000 to $999,999 – one per cent; and those earning one million dollars and above would receive a 0.5 per cent increase.