By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) as promised, has intensified its protest against the announced five percent wage increase by the Government, mounting the largest picketing exercise outside the Office of the President (OP) on Monday (December 9).
Protesters who lined the parapet outside OP are demanding at least 15% increase which the Parliamentary Opposition says provisions were made for in the National 2013 Budget.
Joining the scores of public servants on the protest line were Opposition Leader David Granger, his opposition colleague, AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan and President of the GPSU Patrick Yarde.
According to Yarde, the Government must explain to workers how the money which was approved by the National Assembly for the Revision of Wages and Salaries (which would have at least guaranteed a 10-15% increase) was utilized.
“They said first because of the budget cut they couldn’t pay more, but the budget cuts were expenditures, there was no cut in revenue. Now they are saying that they spent it for a variety of phantoms, they must be clear,” Yarde told reporters.
He described the Government as ‘anti-working class’ and expressed his disappointment with President Donald Ramotar on this subject.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader David Granger called on the administration once again to respect the negotiation process and the collective bargaining agreement and re – engage the union in talks.
He said his party – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) – will not interfere in the process just yet but continues to lend support for a higher increase.
“We are not going to get involved in the negotiations between the union and government, but we will support the union and workers for a living wage,” he said.
His opposition colleague, Khemraj Ramjattan however, appeared to have a stronger view on the situation.
Ramjattan, who stood on the protest line holding a placard, explained that the National Assembly had made provisions for at least a 15% wage increase for all public servants.
He regarded the Government’s explanation surrounding the utilization of the monies as ‘full of holes’. The AFC leader said the imposed five percent increase it totally unjustified and lacks proper explanation while expressing the view that there may have been a scam surrounding the money.
“In the March budget that we had we made the estimates for all the increase amounts of staff in each of the agencies and each of the Ministries and also in each of the subsets of the ministries and the 4.4 billion dollars is a separate set of monies that we allocated for an increase during the year,” he further explained.
The Finance Ministry on the other hand is claiming that they can account for every cent of monies for the Revision of Wages and Salaries.
The Ministry says the AFC has clearly demonstrates that it is unfamiliar with the purposes and uses of the Revision of Wages and Salaries allocation as their methodology used to determine the proposed salary increases for public servants is fundamentally flawed.
On a point of clarification, the Ministry said the uses and purposes of the Revision of Wages and Salaries allocation in the National Budget are a matter of longstanding public record.
“As a matter of policy, and of practical necessity, the National Budget only provides allocations to meet the cost of posts filled in budget agencies at the time the National Budget is finalized” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
The Ministry further explained that should a budget agency promote or recruit new staff, increase salaries or otherwise adjust salaries during the course of a year, that budget agency must revise its budgeted allocation to meet its shortfall.
Since the announcement the announcement of the five percent increase by government there has been protest by public servants in several pockets across the country. The GPSU has also warned of mass industrial unrest if necessary.