— Union to decide way forward at Biennial Conference
“I honestly had believed that the PPP was a working class party. But now all I can see is elements within this party talking about how to punish people even without due process; talking about how to deprive them of a living and don’t care what happens to their family.”
This was the opinion expressed by President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), Patrick Yarde, yesterday when he hosted a press conference at the union’s Shiv Chanderpaul Drive and Regent Street, headquarters.
The forum was intended to “highlight government’s procrastination” as it relates to increased remuneration for public servants.
And according to Yarde, the union as recent as Friday last was forced to ink a letter to President Bharrat Jagdeo expressing displeasure at the state of affairs in light of the severe economic hardships being experienced by workers. That letter, according to Yarde, represents the second that the union has sent to the President in recent times.
The Union President disclosed that it was since June 1, 2007 that the GPSU had submitted to the government proposals for increase in salaries, wages and allowances for 2009 by way of letter. The letter, Yarde noted, was addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Ministry (PSM).
He pointed out that the move was in keeping with procedures in the Memorandum of Agreement between the Union and the PSM (on behalf of the government) for Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes that is legally binding.
In noting the failure of the government to observe and respect the collective bargaining process as enshrined in the International Labour Organisation Conventions 87, 98 and 151 which were ratified by Parliament, Yarde asserted that the government is obligated to observe the articles of the conventions.
“It is clear that they are observing these articles in the breach. Taking into consideration this procrastination, this conduct is in conflict with the timeframe set out with the agreement because with respect to the agreement they are supposed to meet us within two weeks after submitting proposals.”
According to Yarde, the inaction of Government is also a display of bad faith in keeping with the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Act. And also in recognition of the economic hardship and deprivation being experienced by public officers, the union has engaged various approaches and communication with the government and its Agencies for urgent action to be taken.
Among the approaches, Yarde said, was a letter to Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, on March 26, 2009.
The initial approach was considered by the union’s Executive Council and was taken after the 2009 Budget was passed by Parliament on February 26, 2009. Moreover, Yarde said that more than $2.3 B was allocated for public servants’ revision of wages and salaries.
“They were all in parliament when this money passed but I haven’t seen any of them talking about how we can bring relief and improvement to conditions of life for public servants. We are dealing with a lot of impostors, masquerading as people who care, and now they get an opportunity to do something and all they can think about is how to hurt people”, said Yarde.
Subsequent to the Finance Minister’s inaction, an initial letter was sent to President Jagdeo calling on the government to make an interim payment since, Yarde explained, the funds were already approved and only require the President or Cabinet to authorise payment.
“To date, approximately seven months since the approval, no steps have been taken to appropriate the funds inconsonance with the intention of Parliament. The union views this attitude as insensitive, uncaring and unconscionable,” Yarde emphasised.
And should there be no response forthcoming from the Government, he divulged that the union will have to plot the way forward when it hosts its Biennial Conference on September 30 next.
“We have a democratic union so when we take decisions we ensure that members are properly briefed. So we are asking our members to come out to the conference with proposals, resolutions and motions for a course of action,” Yarde disclosed.
However, he is optimistic that there will be an interim solution which could lead to an ultimate resolution of the situation.
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