By Zena Henry
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) says it has not given up the fight against Central Government and the annual arbitrary imposition of wage and salary increases on public servants; hence it is today starting its countrywide member “fan out” in pursuit of redress.
While the union had stated recently that protest action against the arbitrary imposition would have commenced this week, union officials say that they have now decided to meet with its members across the country to ascertain their
position on the issue.
GPSU’s First Vice President, Mortimer Livan, told this publication yesterday that the union felt that discussions should be held with its members in order to move forward strategically. He said representatives in places such as Georgetown, Berbice, Essequibo, Linden etc. will be updated as to the developments involving the union, and the union will in turn be looking for feedback.
The union was expected to hold mass city protest towards the end of last year, but the action which was expected to last for some two weeks attracted a poor turnout. Livan explained that given the festive season, the protest action did not play out as expected. The union thus aborted the holiday protest and is now looking for its members to come out in full support.
Livan opined that expectations are that more attention will be placed on the situation in hopes that in the next two weeks, demonstrations will reconvene.
The union executive explained further that the union and government remain at loggerheads over the arbitrary wage increases. He noted that despite the growing dispute, there has been no discourse or correspondence with the central authority. Livan said that the union is chanting one thing; “the adherence of the constitution and the consideration of collective bargaining agreements.”
He asserted that according to the law, the union and the government are supposed to engage in collective bargaining so as to come up with an increase agreed upon by both sides. The GPSU has indicated that legal action is on the list of various strategies that the body intends to employ to fight the annual impositions.
Chairman and Shadow Labour Minister of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Basil Williams has noted, however, that the public service labour issue needs to be addressed on a wider scope. In his capacity as an attorney-at-law, Williams opined that a challenge exists in the union taking legal action since there is no Industrial Court to address its matter. Williams expressed the need for the revitalization of the Public Service Appellate tribunal and suggested that the body be reconstituted so that appeals by public servants could be fast-tracked.
The workers’ union has reiterated that for more than 10 years, against the collective bargaining agreement, government has been imposing wage increases on workers. Livan noted that firm steps will be taken to address this recurring breach. Williams, along with several other opposition members, who voted for public servant funds in last year’s budget, are adamant that public servants could have been paid more than five percent. Some say that public staffers could have received more than a nine percent wage increase. It is in this light that both opposition parties have expressed the need for deeper scrutiny when signing off on budget sums.
In the meantime, Labour Minister Nanda Gopaul told Kaieteur News yesterday that the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary is expected to meet with the executives of the workers’ union. He said that he is aware of a correspondence from the Permanent Secretary to the union, but he is unaware as to whether the letter speaks specifically to the issue of wage increases.
The Minister did say that to the best of his knowledge, a meeting is supposed to be held with the union and depending on the outcome the matter will further engage the attention of his office.
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