Minimum wage jumped from $39,570 in 2015 to $60,000 under the Coalition government

-More increases planned

DPI, Guyana, Monday, November 19, 2018

Public servants will benefit from salary increases over the next three years, affirms Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, even as their minimum wage has already increased by 52 percent over the past three years.

Jordan was responding to a column by Head of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Lincoln Lewis which contained several fallacies.

Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan.

The Lewis column titled “Local Government Elections, though disappointing to some was not unexpected”, highlighted several issues including increases in salaries for Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament, and the halting of year-end bonuses to the joint services.

Minister Jordan in his letter reminded that after taking office three years ago, it was discovered that only 30 percent and 62 percent of 42,397 registered pensioners were benefiting from the electricity and water subsidies, respectively. He explained that because a pensioner had to have both electricity and water meters in his/her name – it resulted in problems for many, especially those in Indigenous, hinterland and rural areas.

Minister Jordan noted, “After 23 years of encountering discrimination of all kinds under the previous government, the Coalition government decided to bring a swift end to this policy. The decision was that all pensioners must benefit from the subsidies. So, the subsidies were incorporated (not removed) into the pension, which was increased by 30 percent, from $13,125 to $17,000. Today, old age pension stands at $19,500 and will be increased again, in the upcoming budget.”

Regarding the Joint Services, Minister Jordan said, the PPP/C adopted the practice of paying less to public sector workers and saving an amount to pay year-end bonuses to workers in the disciplined services.

“Recall that the standard wage increase was five percent per annum, resulting in the paltry minimum wage of $39,570, in 2015. But a higher percentage has been budgeted to pay increases to all workers across-the-board. The difference in the two percentages was used to finance the one-month bonus to the disciplined services. Even in cases where funds remained after paying the bonus, the previous administration refused to use them to pay the other public sector workers, preferring to return them to the treasury,” he explained.

The Minister did not recall Lewis condemning this practice, “In fact, I do not recall any labour leader vociferously and consistently voicing their objection to this naked attempt to divide the workers. Instead of being condemned in the strongest possible terms by Mr. Lewis, yet another discriminatory practice of the previous administration is being heralded by him.”

He reiterated that government made it clear that all workers must benefit, if there are excess resources that can be shared, “Hence, in 2015 and 2016, all workers benefited from the payment of bonuses of $50,000 and $25,000, respectively.”

Jordan acknowledged that since 2017, the government has had to grapple with financial challenges that have stymied the payment of year-end bonuses, “However, we have paid salary increases beyond the “five percent”, such that the minimum wage has rapidly increased by nearly 52 percent in two years, from $39,570, in 2015, to $60,000, in 2017. It took the PPP/C administration nine years to move the minimum wage by a similar percentage, or from $26,070, in 2006 to $39,570, in 2015. All workers can expect salary increases going forward, especially in 2018, 2019 and 2020.”

The Finance Minister found off-putting, Lewis’ attempts connecting the lower voter turnout by the Joint Services in the recent elections to the cessation of the one-month year-end bonus, “I firmly believe that our hard-fought right to vote cannot be so easily and callously sacrificed for the proverbial ‘40 pieces of silver’. Workers need to know that robbing them of their rightful increase in wages, in order to pay them a bonus, robs them of a higher pension and gratuity, since those are calculated based on your gross salary, which does not include a bonus.”

With reference to salary increases for Cabinet members, the Finance Minister lamented the continued misinformation being peddled. He clarified that President David Granger has never received a salary increase. He explained Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo benefited from a one-time, “very small five percent increase in salary in 2015”. This occurred after it was discovered that the Attorney General’s salary was only tax-free and higher than the Prime Minister’s income. This anomaly was corrected and the Prime Minister’s salary was adjusted slightly above the AG’s salary. The Finance Minister further emphasised, “Please note, however, that unlike the AG, the PM pays income tax.”

Minister Jordan also reminded that salaries of Cabinet ministers, the National Assembly’s Speaker and Opposition Leader were increased by 50 percent; those of junior ministers by a lesser percentage; and those of the other parliamentarians by an even lesser percentage, “I wish to reiterate that the increases granted in 2015 were one-off increases. No further increase in the salaries of parliamentarians is contemplated for this term of office of the coalition government.”

Paul Mc Adam.

Image: Department of Public Information.

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