Over the last few days, the FITUG has recognized the Government, is engaging in an all-out propaganda effort, on the recent and latest imposition of pay rises to public servants. As the editorial of the November 18, Stabroek News pointed out “[p]ublic servants will undoubtedly welcome the retroactive pay increase… that will be provided just in time for the Christmas season”. It should be recognized that the increases arrived around the same time expressions about a year-end bonus were being raised. Maybe it was coincidental, maybe it was not, but the former should not be discounted.
As the editorial noted, the increases were “…disconnected from any policy framework or, indeed, free collective bargaining”. On this matter, the Federation has already publicly expressed our deep dismay regarding the imposition of increases and the clear disregard for our country’s laws on the issue.
Moreover, pay rise impositions was something the Granger Administration promised not to do. This commitment was reiterated several times over the life of the now caretaker Administration, but was not translated into reality.
The betrayal of this undertaking, of course, must be seen in the context of the reneging of many promises by the Coalition. Those promises, it appears, were deceitful ploys to entice voters and hardly any comfort to even a fool. With the new electoral season rapidly approaching, and new and old promises being made, they, from our point of view, must be taken with a pinch of salt.
The Government, in its public relations material, advertises that it granted increases of 26, 10, 9, 7 and 9 per cent which it says aggregates to a 77 per cent salary increase. However, even a primary school child would see that the sum of the increases equates to 61 per cent. It really appears to us, that the Administration has a genuine problem with mathematics. We need not forget the contention that the majority of 65 was 34. The exercise turned out to be a colossal waste of both time and money.
But for us a more fundamental matter remains the wide rift between those at the top echelons and those at the bottom.
Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan is reported as having said that the latest increases will not be awarded to the Ministers and others who had benefitted from the massive pay hike weeks after the Coalition took office. That being the case, however, does not really address the stark inequality that exists.
Using information from an article titled “Salaries of Cabinet ministers to rise by 50%” which appeared in the October 07, 2015 Stabroek News, the accompanying table glaringly illustrates the inequalities perpetuated by the Granger caretaker Government:-
Category Monthly salary # of employees at minimum pay ($70,000)
Junior Ministers $695,541 9.96 persons
Cabinet Ministers $869,927 12.43 persons
Vice Presidents $927,922 13.26 persons
Prime Minister $1,715,000 24.50 persons
The table speaks for itself and shows how wide the valley is between the haves and the have-nots of the Granger regime.
Of course in addition to their salaries, Ministers enjoy a host of perks. Mr Christopher Ram, in an October 14, 2015 online news report, pointed out some of the benefits Ministers enjoy.
According to Mr Ram, apart from the salaries, Ministers “…receive at taxpayers’ expense: 24-hour security; all expenses paid vehicle and chauffeur; tax-free gratuity for their chauffeur; free electricity; free telephone; housing or housing allowance for Senior Ministers and the Attorney General, even when they live in their own homes; entertainment allowance when everyone knows the Ministers are the ones to be entertained; free crossing on toll bridges; no airport tax; generous leave and leave benefits; access to valuable medical benefits; and perhaps as valuable as all the other allowances put together, the right to duty exemption on a vehicle every three years.”.
He went on to point out “MP’s are paid an additional $20,000 per month for being a member of a Parliamentary Sessional Committee; an additional $25,000 per month as a Chairman or Deputy Chairman (sic) of such a Committee; and an allowance of $15,000 per month as a representative of a Geographic Constituency.” Ram pointed out then “[c]onservatively, these are easily worth another million per month.”
Taking into account Mr Ram’s estimate as well as their pay, the rifts become even wider. We have calculated that a Junior Minister month’s pay and benefits would be equivalent to the pay of nearly 25 public servants at the new minimum pay; for Cabinet Ministers it would be almost 27 persons; for Vice Presidents it would be almost 28 persons, and for the Prime Minister it would reach an astounding 39 persons. Taking into account the size of the Ministerial grouping, it is not hard to see the substantial sums being gobbled up by this seemingly favoured grouping.
It was hard for us not to miss the sentiments of PNCR Chairperson, Volda Lawrence on the matter. The November 16, Guyana Chronicle quoted the Chairperson as saying “[o]ur party – the PNCR – started as a working class party and we will never give up fighting for the workers and we will never give up fighting for the workers of Guyana”.
Indeed, we hasten to wonder what party or organization with working-class credentials would promote and perpetuate such policies of inequity. Ms Lawrence’s sentiments came at the same time as her predecessor, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, in an article appearing in the Washington Times of November 11, labelled the opposition PPP/C as “left-wing”.
It seemed to indicate that Mr Williams was saying his party – the PNCR – was right-wing. Right-wing parties, however, are not considered working in the interest of workers as Ms Lawrence indicated that the PNCR is. It seems that the PNCR has an identity crisis or is donning masks as the situation demands. Whatever is the case, it is difficult to convince us that the Government really has the interest of the workers at heart and in mind.
Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana
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