President Irfaan Ali did an address to the nation this morning from the lawns of State House to justify his Government’s imposition of a 7% salary increase for public servants saying that public sector workers are better off under his administration than they were under the former APNU+AFC government, although the former government raised the minimum wage in the public sector by more than 70% in four years.
While sipping coffee during his statement, the President said the 7% increase which was recently announced came with a number of other benefits over the past year to enhance the livelihood, making reference to the cash grants and tax relief that were offered by the government.
The President said the additional measures by the Government amount to about another 10% for public servants.
He has also said $10 billion was never approved in the budget for public servants.
“I am seeing a new narrative that the budget had $10B for salary increases—how far from the truth. There is a line item that deals with wages and emoluments. Dr. Ashni Singh has time over time went at pains to explain that this is not only for salary increases this is for adjustments of salaries for salaries during the year,” the President explained.
But when concerns were raised earlier this year about salary increases for public servants, it was the government that came out to announce that $10 Billion has been approved in the budget for revision of salaries and benefits for public servants, with the Vice President stating that a “huge” part of that money was going to go to increase the salaries to public servants.
President Ali this morning dismissed the concerns of union leaders who have rejected the 7% salary increase, describing them as “political operatives”.
Mr. Ali said the same Trade Unionists who are vocal about salary increases and collective bargaining now, were silent during the previous administration.
“And the Union members, where were their voices then, where were their voices and activism then, it was dead, it was dead because it suited their narrative,” the President said.
The GPSU has repeatedly called out the current and former Government over the imposition of salary increases and it was the Guyana Teachers Union that called a strike that went on for several weeks under the last government until a new salary and benefits package was negotiated for teachers.
The two unions have been outspoken on the recent 7% salary increase after two years by the current government.
In further defending the 7% increase, President Ali said other countries are currently not looking at the question of salary increases, while others have substantially cut jobs and froze wages of their public servants in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the President did not address the issue of the high inflation and high cost of living and how the 7% increase will likely cover that, he said he is confident that public servants are now far better off than before.
With the 7% salary increase coming after two years, the trade unions have said, the increase really works out to a 3.5% increase for each of the two years and the retroactive payments are also being taxed.