Oct 01, 2015 News
Even as the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) works to address some of its on-going issues, the body reportedly suffered tremendously under the previous government, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration.
But even with change in the form of a new government, the GPSU will be keeping watch to ensure that previous indiscretions are not repeated by the coalition government, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC), said GPSU President, Patrick Yarde.
He was addressing the GPSU 21st Biennial Delegates’ Conference, which officially opened yesterday.
According to Yarde, GPSU was a domestic observer in the May 11, 2015 Regional and General Elections. He further said that during this occasion the people of Guyana demonstrated their right to change the government of the day, the then-ruling PPP. With this change, he added, a fresh start was made with a new government.
Yarde recalled that a report addressing the issue of wages and salaries in the public service as well as other key concerns of public servants was created in January 1997. At the time, President Dr. Cheddi Jagan was the Head of State. Jagan had set up a bipartisan committee to focus on the functioning of the public service.
The document “symbolised much of the frustration that public servants had had to endure under the previous administration.”
However, he said, “The commitment given in this document died when Dr. Jagan died. His successors delegated the public service to misery.”
Yarde further said that the PPP/C government had failed to understand that the public service is the bedrock upon which an efficient government rested.
He highlighted a number of issues which were fuelled by the past administration including the politicisation of the Public Service Commission, defending the non-functioning of the public service, non-payment of income, and blatant discrimination.
Additionally, he indicated that public servants would have appealed to the PPP Government for land for housing as well as childcare facilities for members’ children. However, Yarde said, these requests were all denied for over two decades.
Rather, foreigners benefitted from the previous administration’s “giveaway policy”. Many of these deals were underpinned by illegalities and underhand deals, he said.
“There is absolutely no doubt that other such sleazy deals took place under the PPP/C administration,” he said.
“Neither can we forget the blatant attempts to suffocate our union, financially, and to seize lands given to us 40 years ago by the then administration [the People’s Nation Congress] for recreational purposes.”
Yarde also had grievances to air on the scholarship awards given out by the then Public Service Ministry (now the Department of Public Service). During a recent session of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Guyana Public Service, Soyinka Grogan, Manager of the Scholarship Department of the former Public Service Ministry, testified that high ranking officials of the ministry were involved in handpicking students and public servants for scholarships and training programmes.
Grogan also testified that many times those who were awarded did not meet the basic criteria for the awards.
Grogan had said that in previous years there had been an interviewing process which was conducted by a group of educators. Following interviews and analyses of the candidates’ educational backgrounds, persons would then be shortlisted. However, this process has not been used in years while the current process is unknown.
“Years ago it worked; we had better outcomes. We had plenty persons coming out before us who knew what they really wanted to do; that is what they applied to do. Now we have young people going with the flow. They just apply but they are not sure that it is what they really want to do,” Yarde said.
He emphasised that this, too, demonstrated efforts by the PPP to undermine the public service. “They aimed to erode its [the public service’s] capacity to provide efficient service, to play Monopoly with taxpayers’ money, [and] to frustrate bright and ambitious young people,” he said.
He called for an appropriate review of the scholarship awards programme as well as the insertion of appropriate panels to ensure that the selection process is just and fair.
But while Yarde had harsh words for the previous administration, he emphasised that the new government will similarly be scrutinised.
“This union will not countenance a situation where in any respect the government mimics its predecessor in its treatment of public servants,” Yarde stressed. “We are mindful that the issues of the past are not to be repeated.”
According to Yarde, public servants must be treated with respect and dignity. He said too, that the desire is to see the end of the days of the “impoverished public servant”.
“Our public servants avail our country the best years of our lives; never, in many instances, are we able to lead quality lives because what we earn does not allow us to do so,” he said. He added that many public servants retire “broke, completely dependent on a pension that does not even come remotely close to being fair compensation for the contributions made…and reduced to hustlers just to stave off hunger and the absence of shelter for the rest of our lives”.
He emphasised that a change is needed and that the Government of Guyana can be an integral role in changing the lives of public servants.
He said that the GPSU will openly welcome positive proposals put forward by the government that will benefit both the public service and public servants.
He further admitted that it is understood that progress cannot be achieved in a day. However, he said, it must be assured that the recommendations made by public servants and the interest of the members are taken seriously.
“Due attention must be paid to our members’ concerns as well as to their contributions to the country’s national development will be acknowledged,” Yarde said.
The GPSU conference commenced yesterday and will end tomorrow. Yesterday’s opening saw hundreds of public servants turning out at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre to participate in the programme.
During the conference, issues plaguing the union will be discussed and a way forward will be formulated.
The conference is being held under the theme “Enhancing the Process of Restoration of Dignity and Professionalism in the Public Service”. The subtheme for the conference is “Efficient and Quality Service”. There will also be a panel discussion on the theme of the conference.
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