Mar 21, 2016 News
Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s position that he is guided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the issue of wages and salaries for public sector workers is unacceptable and cannot be taken lightly. That is the position taken by the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC).
The body is saying that government has to be consistent and the same measures used to give government members a hefty increase must apply to considerations for increases to all government workers.
At his most recent press conference, Jordan said that before the next budget is presented, public servants can expect a top-up. He cautioned, however, that expectations for handsome increases need to be tempered.
His warning in this regard comes on the heels of a report by the IMF.
This report said that Guyana must be mindful of its increases in wages when one considers the extent of economic challenges facing the Government.
The Finance Minister said that he agrees with the IMF position on this matter.
“In the good times, paying exaggerated salaries has serious long and short term impacts. Trinidad and Tobago is feeling the effects of paying salaries which at one time seemed sustainable,” said Jordan.
In response, GTUC’s President, Lincoln Lewis said that the IMF is a regulatory body and advises, rather than dictates to countries.
“To take an advice as a mandate is to abrogate the responsibility to work with stakeholders in chartering a direction indigenous to the people’s needs. The minister can well learn from history.”
Lewis said that it would be helpful for Jordan is take heed of lessons that history teaches.
In this regard, the trade unionist reminded of what occurred in 1999. He said that at the conclusion of the 57-day strike by public sector workers, the PPP/C administration conceded to go to arbitration.
“At the conclusion of this exercise the arbiters led by Dr. Aubrey Armstrong awarded a 30 percent wage increase, which was far in excess of what was recommended by the IMF. The PPP/C administration went to the IMF and advised of the need to pay based on an agreement between the government and workers. This was accepted by the IMF, the Inter-American Bank (IDB) and World Bank, and the workers were paid.”
Lewis said that the APNU+AFC administration is on record of saying that it is pursuing a Green Economy, which according to international standards, is measured on the Human Development Index (HDI). He said that Jordan’s position is not in harmony with the road the government said it was going down.
Further, he pointed out that when this administration paid Cabinet and Members of Parliament increases in 2015; such payments were justified based on the HDI. The government and its spokespersons in justifying the increases did not make an argument on the strength of the economy to pay. The argument was premised on the social factors in society.
“What the government did is use the factor in the HDI to pay themselves, but now the government is conveniently using the GDP as the instrument to determine how rank and file workers will be paid increase in wages and salaries. These double standards must not be allowed to permeate the society.”
Lewis said that conscious of government’s argument in defence of the increase it gave to itself 2015, when the GTUC met with the Minister of Finance on the issue of budget consultation for 2016, GTUC deliberately structured its presentation based on the Green Economy and not the GDP.
The GTUC said that the body was commended and the Minister referred to the presentation as “thinking outside of the box.”
GTUC is an organization of national character and the presentation was made conscious of our role in shaping and influencing the national policies, programmes and laws that would redound to the benefit of workers, past, present and potential.
The process of collective bargaining is constitutional and legal. Section 23 (1) of the Trade Recognition Act speaks to the responsibility of the employer to negotiate in good faith with the workers’ representatives. In this case, more than ever the Government of Guyana is called upon to respect the law and the workers’ rights and negotiate with the public sector unions in good faith. The HDI index that was used to determine salary increases for Cabinet and Members of Parliament, who are government workers, must also be used as the barometer in determining wages and salaries for the remaining government workers.”
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