Oct 31, 2022 News
…says feeling of hopelessness, poverty and desperation must be erased from minds of citizens
Kaieteur News – Former PPP/C Government Minister, Dr. Nanda K. Gopaul last Friday called on unions in Guyana to demand better living wages for workers and to ensure that the wealth accrued from the “robust petroleum sector” reaches the pockets of the ordinary man and bring improvement to the poor and needy.
Dr. Gopaul was at the time delivering a speech at the 54th Delegates Conference of the National Association of Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) at the Umana Yana, Georgetown.
In his speech, he highlighted that the Government of Guyana (GoG) has been pursuing major infrastructural works around the country – but while that is taking place at a rapid pace – the same urgency is not placed in addressing the plights of the ordinary man. “I have heard the phrase from workers that “we are a rich country with many poor people around”. There is need for that feeling of hopelessness, poverty and desperation to be erased from the minds of the ordinary man,” Dr. Gopaul said.
As such, he stated that the trade union movement therefore must demand the immediate improvement in the living standards of the ordinary workers. “In so doing, they can advance the call and agitate collectively for the urgent implementation of a national minimum wage and a public sector minimum wage coupled with decent increases in pension for our pensioners, who have toiled for decades in this country,” he added.
Dr. Gopaul stated that in light of the increase in cost of living around the world and in Guyana, now more than ever the workers are crying out for change and improvements in their living standards. In making his case, he explained that if we are to examine how the increase in cost of living has affected the ordinary man, “no one can deny that workers deserved a significant improvement in their living standards and in their take home pay.”
The trade unionist stated that $60,000 national minimum wage and the $75,000 government minimum wage needs to urgently be addressed and with reasonable compensation given to ordinary workers for their labour.
“Unions must demand that some of the wealth accrued from our robust petroleum and mineral sectors must find its way to the pockets of the ordinary man and bring improvement to the poor and needy,” he said.
Dr. Gopaul noted that workers must be able to go to work feeling a sense of hope that at the end of the month, they would be able to take care of their basic financial needs. He added, while the government should be applauded for its housing drive and other initiatives aimed at improving the standard of living, much more has to be done for the lower paid workers.
“Let’s examine a typical household, with a mortgage of $9M on a home. He will encounter a compulsory deduction of about $46,000 for loan repayment, $10,000 for electricity, $2,000 for water, $10,000 for internet and telephone services, transportation of about $10,000, put that alongside a net pay of $68,000 that leaves the worker with a negative balance on his earnings of $10,000. Take away the mortgage payment and he is left with $36,000., which he has to then take care of food supplies, cooking gas, clothing and footwear. If there is a sole breadwinner in a home with children going to school, we can understand what that family has to go through to eke out a living,” Dr. Gopaul explained.
The trade unionist shared that for in excess of two decades, NAACIE stood out as one of the leading unions in the country agitating in a militant principled and independent manner against all forms of injustices meted out against the workers of this country. He added that the union formed and encouraged alliances, took to the streets when it became necessary and moved to the courts for in excess of a decade non-stop, as you heard earlier, to protect and defend workers’ rights.
He stated too that while he is satisfied that President Irfaan Ali will continue to champion workers’ rights and interests – trade unions should always be vigilant, militant and press on with its demands for a fair deal for workers. “We must struggle unceasingly until the Guyanese workers earn a decent living wage,” he said.
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