… street protests continue next week
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has indicated that legal action will be among the various strategies that the body intends to use to fight the annual arbitrary imposition of wage and salary increases on public workers by the government.
The public servants’ representative has indicated further that come next week intense protest action will resume in resistance of the five percent increase that was given to state workers this year. The union’s First Vice President Mortimer Livan, told this newspaper yesterday that following the holiday season, the union will return to the streets against the increase. He charged that the union will continue their actions until the government hears them.
The union had earlier in the month declared that it would march the streets of Georgetown until the New Year in defiance of the imposed percentage. The picket marches however saw a poor turnout, thus giving way for action at the close of the holiday season.
Livan added that apart from legal and protest action, the union has called on international bodies to lend their support towards public servants. The union executive said that they have petitioned these foreign bodies and will be seeking ways to aid the situation.
Affiliates of the Caribbean Public Servants International (PSI) have already started to express their support of the local unions with unions in the island national of St. Lucia being the latest body to express solidarity with not only the GPSU, but also Guyana Local Government Officers’ Union (GLGOU) which is also facing a dilemma involving public servants.
Amidst the contention, Livan informed that there has been no contact or approach by the Administration in any attempt to solve or even soothe the matter. Livan opined that, that attitude displayed disregard and a lack of care for the public workers. “They (government) just don’t care,” he suggested to this newspaper.
The government through the Finance Ministry has failed to provide a requested paper trail to show the purpose for the no more than five percent increase. The government has argued that monies for wage and salary increases could be no more than five percent across the board for all public servants, but the Opposition has countered that funds allocated in the budget for this specific reason should have seen the workers receiving no less than a 10 percent increase.
The Opposition had also requested a paper trail of the funds spent, especially since it is their belief that the Administration may have used the public servants increase to fill areas where the Opposition would have cut funds from last year’s budget.
Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh has stated, however, that the use of funds allocated for the public workers “is a matter of public record”. He said that every year the purpose and use of the funds is explained and it is voted on. It is further viewed and audited by the Auditor General, returned to the parliament, and put before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), where it is scrutinized, he continued.
However, public servants have for more than 10 years been receiving arbitrarily imposed sums from the government. This is without the procedural collective bargaining agreement; thus sideling the union, executives have stated.
Chairman and Shadow Labour Minister of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Basil Williams, stated however, that GPSU has legal grounds to seek recourse over the arbitrary five per cent increase that was imposed on the public workers.
He highlighted a challenge to the union since there is no Industrial Court to address the matter. Williams had also expressed the need for the revitalization of the Public Service Appellate tribunal and called for that body to be reconstituted so that appeals by public servants could be fast tracked.
Both the Alliance for Change (AFC) and APNU have already expressed rigorous checks of sums allocated for public workers and plan to ask tough questions to ascertain what became of the funds for the increases of public workers at the next budget presentation 2014.
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