September 28, 2016

Same measure used to pay Cabinet, MPs must apply to remaining workers

Dear Editor,
Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s position that he is guided by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) position on the issue of wages and salaries for public sector workers cannot be allowed to go unnoticed. The IMF is a regulatory body and advises a country.
The IMF does not dictate for any country. 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.
In 1999 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 per cent 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 Development Bank (IDB) and World Bank, and the workers were paid.
The APNU/AFC administration is on record saying it is pursuing a Green Economy, which according to international standards is measured on the Human Development Index (HDI). The IMF is measuring growth and development by using Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
Since this administration has been elected to manage the country, it is instructive to note that while it is pursuing development along the lines of the Green Economy it is allowing itself to be dictated by an external agency using a different instrument to measure growth and development.
When this administration paid Cabinet and Members of Parliament increases in 2015, such 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 they made was premised on the social factors in society. In fact, what the government did is used 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. Conscious of what the government’s argument was as it relates to the increases in 2015, when the Guyana Trades Union Congress (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 minister commended the GTUC and referred to the presentation as “thinking outside of the box.” GTUC is an organisation 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 Union 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 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.

Lincoln Lewis
General Secretary

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