A group of about two dozen people picketed the Office of the President Thursday to voice their disapproval of the recent salary increases of Parliamentarians and Ministers of the Government.
Men and women under the Red Thread banner stood on Vlissengen Road with placards which made clear their grievances.
Red Thread member, Joy Marcus, on the picket line said that her group is highly offended by the 50 percent increase for government officials while public servants only received a mere five percent on their salaries in the recent budget.
“We don’t think it is right to tell workers that the country doesn’t have money to give more increases for public servants and pensioners yet (government officials) can give yourself and everyone else an increase.
“Public assistance persons only receive $6,500 a month while (government officials) are already getting a lot of perks and still they have raised their salaries. They gave the excuse that the officials must be paid for their “quality work” what kind or work is everyone else doing then?” Joy asked.
The women of the organization also said that they are “highly insulted” by the way the matter of the pay rise was dealt with. The lack of a public announcement about the pay increase was seen as a “sneaky” act by the administration similar to the ones they condemned during their time in opposition.
They were not amused by Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s uttering to justify the pay increase that government officials needed to be paid well so that they would not be tempted to “thief” like former Ministers.
The justification was seen as disturbing by the women’s group. It insinuates that Government officials cannot survive on $500,000 a month while “normal tax-paying Guyanese” are expected to survive on $6,500, $17,000 and $50,000 per month without any of the benefits enjoyed by government officials, they said.
Marcus expressed disgust. “We don’t get all these perks and allowances that they would get and we are the taxpayers.” She further argued that Government cannot say that they does not have money to give public servants a 20 percent increase but yet could find money to pay itself as much as 50 percent after just five months in office.
She said the group believes that by this unfortunate decision the government has betrayed the people who voted for them.
“We voted for them to rid our government of twenty three years of arrogance and now this government is doing the exact selfish thing. We too are quality people just like those in high offices and should be given the same treatment.”
She said that several other picketing exercises are planned for Office of the President and the Parliament buildings. “Its taxpayers’ money why are you taking so much from us and not giving us anything at all,” she said.
Ultimately the group was adamant that the government needs to review their position about the increases and they have to be a listening government for the people.
“You can’t only want us around elections time and after then you have no time with us, do what yah want and then come to us when you need us to vote again. We are the ones who put you there as a government to serve us not yourselves.
“Thief or tek all is money out of poor people’s pocket.” The group’s contention is that Government should “raise public servants pay to decent rates first then we can perhaps negotiate.”
Member of the Red Thread women’s group, Karen DeSouza, also on the picket line said that the recent increase was a major misstep for the new administration even as the Government is believed to have contradicted themselves many times regarding the salary increases.
As a result, their rationalizations for the increase are being interpreted as a very negative sign for the future of Guyana under the David Granger-led administration.
“However they want to rationalize the increase, Ministers should have hung back until workers who have families to maintain were made comfortable before they made moves to increase their pay,” DeSouza stated.
The salary increases which caused public outrage came on the heels of the recently passed 2015 budget. The budget saw public servants receiving miniscule increases as opposed to what they were promised during the pre-election campaigning.
On August 5, 2015, Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman made claims that increases were not being considered for the immediate future in the wake of rumours of the salary increases. On September 25 however, Trotman’s claims proved to be spurious and placed him in an unfavorable position with the public.
Constitutional Commissioner, sitting on the Women and Gender Equality Commission, Nicole Cole expressed her disappointment in the party, especially Trotman and termed the increases as an abuse of the people’s trust.
“The same Minister who lied to us had the temerity to face us and tell us to trust them. How can we trust them when they would have abused our trust? They saw the public outrage when the matter was just a rumor and should have known it was too soon.
“They have backdated their increases to the first of July which means they were only six weeks in office when they issued themselves increases. The Government touted itself as being people centered, a people centered Government doesn’t look after their own self interests first. They put the people first,” stated Cole.
Several members of Red Thread shared the opinion that the Granger-led administration was just awaiting their turn in office to become what they termed “the fattest cats.” They claimed their belief of this stemmed from the party’s actions. When the party was in Opposition, they decried “fat cats” and cut several aspects of budgets as they regarded the former administrations spending as “shady,” only to attain office to do something quite similar.
Last week The Red Thread women’s group announced its intentions to stage a protest in front of Parliament buildings on Thursday.
However, the group decided to host two different protests. The protest which was to be held in front of Parliament Thursday was shifted to Ministry of the Presidency. The other will be staged October 22 when Parliament is scheduled to be reconvened.
“We know it may not change anything but we are not just going to stand idly by as they do what they want,” stated a member of the Red Thread organization.
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