GPSU wage/salary deadlock

overnment seems to have an innate interest only in what is important to it, and according to political commentator, Dr David Hinds, when it comes to the situation involving the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), it is obvious that much consideration has not been given to the well-being of public workers.

Speaking with Guyana Times on Tuesday, Hinds said Government’s 10 per cent salary increase offer was very much inadequate, considering the social, political and economic factors involved.

Dr David Hinds

“For example, 10 per cent of 60, 000 is $6000; there is not much more a woman with two or three children can do with that. Public servants, like all categories of workers, deserve a living wage. The Government’s explanation that that’s all they can afford is not good enough. What Government can afford is based on what Government prioritises,” Dr Hinds told Guyana Times in an invited comment.

Government and the GPSU are still at a standstill on salary increase negotiations. While Government maintains that it will not budge from its 10 per cent increase offer, the GPSU has been holding out and has even suggested that the two parties meet again for more talks. President David Granger has, however, said that there was nothing more that could be offered at this time.

While speaking to this publication, Hinds questioned whether Government has made public servants’ wages a priority.

“Of course, there are times when different categories of workers or different policy initiatives must be prioritised, but I have not heard of plausible reasons why public servant wages should not be given a look in at this point. I say this even after taking into consideration that the Government did give the public servants a raise during its first year in office. When one takes into consideration that the majority of public servants come from the Government’s constituency, it is even more puzzling that it is not more forthcoming,” he posited.

Dr Hinds said while he was not suggesting that Government should engage in “overt clientelism”, the reality was that it was not sensible to go out of its way to alienate its constituency.

Hinds continued, “I am a bit disappointed that the Government has chosen to go ahead and pay the increased wage even though the Union has rejected it.

I think it’s bad political optics. It can be interpreted as a form of power politics—”We have the power to do it, so we will”.

He said a better approach would have been to reach an interim arrangement with the Union of say 15 per cent, while the two sides continue to negotiate. This, according to him, would have sent a signal of compromise rather than “unilateralism”, and the latter was never a good approach for a government to take, especially one that is under the microscope as this government is.

“If I were the Government, I would try to avoid arbitration as much as possible. It is not good politically. They should try to reach an amicable solution as much as possible. Getting a third party involved sends the message of inflexibility on the part of the two sides, but often it is the Government that suffers in the eyes of the public ,” Dr Hinds said

While suggestions of arbitration have been brewing, the GPSU, however, has not yet begun such talks, although the option is openly available for it to thrash out the wages and salaries impasse with Government.

The GPSU had come out very strongly recently, warning Government that it needed to be guided by the 1999 strike, which lasted for 57 days and led to arbitration over deadlocked salary talks.