New entrants to the public service are not benefiting from the tax free $4,000 hardship allowance the government began paying out at the height of the global financial crisis.
This has angered the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), which now says that the move is discriminatory and unconscionable.
The GPSU, on Friday, said that it sincerely believed that the government’s hardship award of $4,000, which was paid to workers in 2008, was in recognition of the economic difficulties encountered globally and domestically. The allowance was awarded to public servants working for less than $50,000 per month. The government further extended the timeline for granting the allowance.
“In the circumstances, we felt the government’s action was both a tangible and sensitive gesture, cognizant of the need to bring some relief to the most vulnerable groups of public service employees,” the GPSU said in a May 6, 2010 letter to Dr Jennifer Westford, Minister of Public Service.
The Union said that the tax free hardship award was seen as an effort to bridge the yawning gap between the cost of living and remuneration of public servants and it is therefore unconscionable and unreasonable for the government to deny this relief to new entrants in the public service.
“As a government that professes to have a close relationship with the working class and devoted to promoting their interest, we believe that such discriminatory action was taken without taking into consideration the plight of the workers generally and that of new entrants in particular,” Patrick Yarde, president of the GPSU said Friday.
The decision puts new entrants at a severe disadvantage and denies them a more favourable remuneration to lessen the impact of a challenging economic environment, Yarde charged.
He said that it is clear that the difficult economic situation persists today and will continue in the foreseeable future. However, even if it does not, he pointed out that the GPSU has consistently argued that the wages and salaries of public servants are well below that required to purchase a minimum basket of goods.
Yarde argued that since the number of new entrants to the public service is small, the additional cost of incorporating the hardship award into the salary scale will be negligible in an annual wage bill that exceeds $12 billion.
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