Pay rise “imposition” in public service unacceptable – FITUG

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-Say workers with lower wages have greater needs

Describing Government’s recent imposition of a pay rise for public servants as a high-handed approach, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUG) on Monday criticised the move, stating that it is illegal, immoral and not in keeping with the good faith of wage negotiations.

FITUG President Carvil Duncan

FITUG noted that even though both major parties in the Government –the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC) had made a commitment in its elections manifestos to adhere to the collective bargaining process when arriving at a wage increase, they have moved to impose a pay rise for the third consecutive year.

In addressing the media, President of FITUG Carvil Duncan said it was also a sentiment expressed on several occasions by officials in the current administration. He said it is therefore disconcerting that the Government has again employed such an approach and in that process undermined the credibility of its commitments.

“This imposition approach runs contrary to our Trade Union Recognition Act, the Constitution of Guyana and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions. It also does not send a positive message to other employers in our nation,” Duncan told the media.

The trade unionist also expressed concerns over the quantum of the pay rises that were approved by Government. He noted that those at the bottom end, their salaries will rise by $4,445 from $55,555 to $60,000 per month, having benefited from an 8 percent rise. However, those benefiting from high salaries and receive $80,000 per month for instance, will see their salary going up by $40,000 arising from their 0.5 percent pay hike.

“Though we accept that all workers deserve higher wages/salaries, it is those at the lower end who are in greater need. It is low-earning workers that find it difficult to find difficulties to put meals on the table, to send their children to school, to pay their bills, to afford medical care and medication, to have adequate shelter and the basic comforts of life, and to meet life’s basic necessities.”

One of the main members of the umbrella trade union body, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has also taken note of the recent announcement and said it was an insincere move taken by Government. The GAWU said it strongly contends that the workers, especially those at the lower end, are deserving of much more substantial pay hikes.

“Now-a-days they must contend with less disposable income and heavier burdens arising from the series of tax measures which have negatively impacted their and their family’s standard-of-living.”

GAWU views the engagement with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) as mere theatrics, meant to convey an impression of engagement. “The Administration’s advisors need to tell those in charge that there is a Grievance Procedure which clearly sets out the modus operandi in cases of breakdown and deadlock at the bilateral level,” the union said.

In announcing this imposed increase, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Reginald Brotherson, indicated that the increases are expected to pile on an additional $3.6B to the national wages bill.

Brotherson said that the final offer made to Union was not countered since the GPSU was still of the view that the talks over the 2016 increases were not completed. He said, however, all negotiations for wages and salaries for 2016 have been completed.

While in Opposition, both the APNU and AFC had condemned the previous Government for arbitrarily increasing wages and salaries for public servants. It had also demanded that the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) Administration to respect the collective bargaining agreement with the GPSU and enter into sincere and serious negotiations with the Union aimed at paying reasonable increases to public servants.

In 2014, the APNU had said in a statement that public servants are frequently unable to afford to meet some basic household expenses and further stated that the administration must adhere to the ILO conventions ratified by the Assembly.

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