– mulls measure of retaliation
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is not impressed with what it has described as “diversionary tactics” by Government to pay a “Christmas freck” rather than resume negotiations for a living wage for public servants. In fact the union is so irked by this development that it is currently contemplating some form of retaliation.
This disclosure was yesterday made by GPSU First Vice President, Mr. Mortimer Livan, at a press conference held at the Union’s Regent and Shiv Chanderpaul Drive, Bourda, Georgetown headquarters.
Reading from a statement yesterday, Livan said that the announcement by Government late last week that public servants earning less than $500,000 per month are to be paid a “one-off, tax-free bonus of $25,000,” comes against the backdrop of ongoing uncertainty over the status of the incomplete and outstanding wages and salaries negotiations between the GPSU and Government.
He sought to make it clear yesterday that the union is certainly not happy with the unrealistic and decidedly indelicate remark from Finance Minister, Mr. Winston Jordan that the paltry bonus will serve to “ease the journey to the good life.” In fact, Livan yesterday described the Finance Minister’s remarks as “both trite and insensitive.”
“In the first instance the so-called “tax free bonus” bears a conspicuous resemblance to the kind of arbitrary periodic handout to which public servants have long been relegated by their employer and which epitomizes the accustomed lack of regard for public servants,” the First Vice President observed.
But more than that, he noted that the arbitrariness of the decision raises, not for the first time, questions about the veracity of the political administration’s stated committment to respect collective bargaining.
“We have little doubt that the expectation behind this gesture is that – particularly at this time of the year – the poorly compensated public servants, will feel some misplaced sense of gratitude for the decidedly modest ‘small piece’ that has been tacked on to their salaries,” said Livan.
As such, he noted that “perhaps Minister Jordan may wish to tell us in greater detail about the extent to which the government’s gesture will “ease the journey” towards the “promised land.” The GPSU, according to Livan, “wishes to make it clear that the persistence of periodic handouts to Public Servants in a fashion that seeks to relegate them to mendicants cannot and will not be allowed to replace fair, honest and genuine collective bargaining.”
And Livan related yesterday that “even if, as now appears to be the case, the payment of the ‘Christmas freck’ now appears to be a fait accompli, the Union wishes to inform the government that gestures of this kind only serve to further erode the self-esteem of the Guyana Public Service and take us further from the creation of an institution that can adequately serve the nation’s interests.”
Moreover, Livan noted that it is the firm opinion of the Union that such diversionary tactics should be replaced by a swift return to the negotiating table to resume the 2016 bilateral negotiations on the wages, salaries, allowances and representation improvement in other conditions for Public Servants.
But the union was given assurance by President David Granger that the negotiation process will continue. Livan is however adamant that the process has been stalled and the Union is convinced that workers have been neglected.
In a letter to the Head of State dated November 16, 2016, the union highlighted that “on September 29, 2016, Your Excellency declared, during the recording of your programme, The Public Interest that the Government’s offer of a differentiated wages and salaries increase for Public Servants is not a final offer.”
The President had responded by way of letter to GPSU President, Mr. Patrick Yarde, categorically stating “I iterate that the negotiations are incomplete. The Ministries of Finance and the Presidency will notify you of the arrangement for the negotiations.”
According to Livan, the fact that a year has come to an end and a multi-year agreement has not been realized indicates that the union has waited long enough. He moreover disclosed that the union is prepared to decide on a course of action to retaliate in relation to the perceived stalled negotiations. The way forward, Livan said, will be deliberated on at the union’s Executive Council meeting slated for next week. When questioned if a strike action is looming, Livan would only say “anything is possible.”
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