Aug 13, 2022 News
– Says country heading for worst inflation rate in decades
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – With the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and other workers’ representatives demanding respect for the right to collective bargaining and the need for these discussions in light of the high cost of living, the Alliance for Change (AFC) is advising unions to seek a maximum 50 percent increase. The party believes this is a reasonable ask given that inflation and government spending is on the rise.
Weeks ago, the GPSU warned government about disrespecting their legal right to negotiate wages and salaries and the fact that this needed to happen as public servants and citizens in general were suffering under high living costs. They chided the government over cash grants, hampers and other relief assistance for selected groups, while ignoring the need to meet with the union to discuss increases for public workers.
Shadow Finance Minister, Juretha Fernandes reminded that in 2016, when the APNU+AFC regime had unveiled a budget of only $230B, the People’s Progressive Party, while in opposition had called for a 50 percent increase to be given to public servants. She said, “…certainly, with the allocations for 2022 now being $597.6B to date, negotiations should most certainly begin at a maximum of 50 percent increase.”
Fernandes explained that the party did predict that the inflation rate of 4.1 percent by the government would have surpassed that figure by July. The AFC member said that the Bureau of Statistics has confirmed their prediction as inflation from May to June of this year was reported at 1.7 percent, bringing the total inflation to 4.9 percent for the first half of 2022.The AFC member said that the party is once again predicting that by the end of 2022 “inflation will likely surpass eight percent [and] this would make 2022 the worst year of inflation in decades.”
Fernandes continued that the extreme rate of inflation requires immediate action to address the erosion of workers spending power across Guyana. She added that even with a $552.B budget, that was supplemented with a more than $44B provision, citizens still wait to see and feel the impact of what has been described as Guyana’s largest and most transformational budget to date. The Shadow Finance Minister said that both the national budget and the supplemental financial paper failed to provide any relief to public servants. The party thus called on the government to immediately start collective bargaining with stakeholders “…for an inflation based-increase with a timeline of three months at maximum to be completed.”
During a press conference, GPSU President, Patrick Yarde had reminded government about the power public servants hold and warned them to treat workers better, unless they wanted to return to 1999 when workers caused the shutdown of public services by staying away from work.
The union President said that it was not taking certain steps because of the Covid-19 pandemic but did not rule out strike action if government continued to ignore the plight of public workers. To get the ball rolling, the GPSU on July 29, 2022 filed a court matter to force the government into collective bargaining so that the gains could be sought for public workers. Yarde had said that public servants are “starving”; that they were bringing their concerns and coming to the union with no money to buy meals or pay bus fares since their salaries have proven inadequate in the current scheme of things.
He said in some cases, the union would have to intervene in providing financial assistance to help workers. He said too, that certified nurses continue to be wooed by foreign institutions, with nursing assistants and their families now being drawn in. Yarde said the government is fully away of the situation, but is doing nothing about it.
Just days after the GPSU’s press conference, President Irfaan Ali promised to meet with the GPSU; and did so shortly after. It was said however, that the Head of State met with a GPSU representative, First Vice President, Dawn Gardener and called the meeting an engagement that sought to discuss public servant welfare. When contacted, Gardener opted not to reveal the contents of the union and president’s meeting but had stated earlier in the week that the body would be issuing a statement in relation to the engagement.
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