GOVERNMENT’S decision to increase the wages and salaries of public servants will amount to some $8B and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, has urged public servants to make good use of the finances.
On Wednesday, President David Granger announced that public servants earning between $100,000 and $1M will receive an 8.5 per cent increase while those earning less than 100,000, will receive a nine per cent increase. Added to that, the minimum basic salary in the public service will climb from $64,200 to $70,000. All of the increases will be tax-free and will be retroactive to January 1, 2019.
In response to these increases, the opposition leader, during his weekly press conference on Thursday, endorsed the move by government. “Public servants should collect their money, it was budgeted since last year,” Jagdeo told reporters.
Over at GPSU, its President, Patrick Yarde, declined to weigh in on the matter, though the increases would, undoubtedly, positively impact the lives of its members. When the Guyana Chronicle contacted the union on Thursday, it was repeatedly told that Yarde was not in office. No other official was available to speak on behalf of the union. When this newspaper visited the union’s head office at around 16:35hrs, it was told that Yarde was in a meeting, and would not engage the press on the issue until he calls a press conference. Top government ministers, however, had met with Yarde and another official of the union on Tuesday and according to a Department of Public Information release, the discussion was fruitful and was held in a cordial manner. The increases and allowances announced by the government have been championed by the union over the years, although it insisted on collective bargaining in arriving at these awards.
Among the beneficiaries of this year’s increases are ‘sweeper-cleaners’ – a category of workers that the GPSU had fought long and hard for them to be regularised within the public service. In making the announcement on Wednesday, President Granger disclosed that sweeper-cleaners, in the public education system, will get better remuneration starting December, as they too will benefit from the new minimum wage of $70,000.
Since before 2013, GPSU has been pleading with the government to regularise the emoluments paid to sweeper-cleaners. In 2018, government took a decision to regularise the sweeper-cleaners after a group (predominantly women) protested several times in Georgetown and Linden, demanding to be paid the minimum wage and also for better working conditions.
Come December, public servants’ minimum wage, including the salaries of sweeper-cleaners, will be increased to $70,000 from $64,220 per month. This represents a nine per cent increase for 2019 and an overall increase of 77 per cent since the APNU+AFC Coalition Government entered office in 2015, when the minimum wage stood at $39,540.
On Thursday, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, who had initially announced the new minimum wage ahead of the President’s address, clarified that, semi-anonymous agencies such as the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would benefit from the increases. However, Minister Jordan noted that the increases do not apply to the President, Prime Minister, Ministers of Government, Members of Parliament, and public corporations on the grounds that they already benefitted from a one off increase in 2015.
Meanwhile, healthcare workers, such as doctors, and nurses will enjoy an increase in their monthly allowances. Station allowances will be increased from $2,800 to $10,000; Hinterland allowances will be increased from between $4,000 and $12,000 to $24,000. Risk allowance will be increased from $500 to $5,000. Uniform allowance for health sector workers will be increased from $13,000 and $22,135 to $15,000 and $30,000 respectively, and on-call allowance for doctors will also be increased. Meal allowances will also be increased to $8,000.
The increases in wages, salaries and allowances were announced one day after a meeting between the government and GPSU, and would be paid in December. The increases will cost the treasury approximately $8B and were budgeted for in the 2019 National Budget.
After taking office in 2015, the administration increased the minimum wage from $39,540 to $50,000, benefitting over 30,700 persons in the public sector at the time.
Public servants, who were at the time earning less than $500,000 monthly, received a one-off tax-free bonus of $50,000; those with salaries of more than $50,000 received a five per cent salary increase, while those earning $50,000 or less received an eight per cent increase. In December 2016, public servants earning less than $500,000 per month received a tax-free bonus of $25,000, while those earning $99,000 or less benefitted from a 10 per cent increase; those earning between $100,000 and $299,000 received a six per cent increase; those earning between $300,000 and $799,000 and more.
Meanwhile in 2017, the minimum wage was increased to $60,000. Also, public servants earning between $55,555 and $99,999 received an increase of eight per cent; a six per cent increase to those earning $100,000 to $299,999; five per cent to those earning between $300,000 and $499,999 with smaller increases for those on a higher scale.
In 2018, while no bonus was offered, the government approved increases for all public servants ranging from 0.5 per cent to seven per cent and increased the minimum wage from $60,000 to 64,000. Public servants who earned up to $100,000 received a seven per cent increase while public servants who earned salaries between $100,000 and $299,999 received a 6.5 per cent increase along with smaller increases for those on a higher scale.
On the other hand, it took the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) administration nine years to move the minimum wage from $26,070 in 2006 to $39,570 in 2015.