Ministry of Social Protection debunks Rickford Burke’s assessment

Press Release, Ministry of Social Protection – Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Ministry of Social Protection finds Rickford Burke’s letter in the Kaieteur News of August 14th, 2018 under the Caption “The coalition Government’s Labour Relations is a disaster” to be less than amusing, somewhat impish and founded on puerility.

Brief though it is, the letter attempted to address a number of issues including a pay increase awarded to Ministers and Parliamentarians and the current negotiation between the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers’ Union, among others.

The first issue has been adequately addressed many times over and since the “Teachers’ Negotiations” can be considered Sub judice, it would not be wise to comment on that matter at this time.

On the question of wage and salary increase for Public Sector Workers, the coalition Government’s record is unmatched. During the last two years sliding scale increases resulting in a more equitable distribution of available limited resources have been introduced for the first time in the nation recent history. That must be considered as an enlightened approach to wages and salaries administration.

Between 2015 and 2017 – a mere three years- the coalition Government facilitated wage adjustments exclusive of one-off bonuses ranging between 41% and 52%.

Similarly, the minimum rate of pay in the Private Sector was increased by 26%, moving it from $202 to $255 per hour during the same period.

Mr. Burke’s reference to the non-payment of the Customary Year End Bonus or Back Pay to Public Sector employees reflects a level of unconsciousness of the year end payments during the past decades.

Prior to the coalition Government a Customary Year-End Bonus was not paid to all Public Sector Workers. On the contrary, only the armed forces were paid an incentive equivalent to a month’s salary irrespective of the performance of the economy.

It was the coalition Government which sought to rectify that inequity by paying an equal amount to all public sector workers on the basis of affordability, which was influenced by the performance of the economy.

Further, it was the coalition Government which re-introduced the non-payment of income tax on overtime wages of bauxite workers. Mr. Burke may not remember that that benefit had been enjoyed by bauxite and sugar workers but it was withdrawn from the bauxite workers only by the previous administration.

At this juncture of our evolution, our time and resources are best utilized on issues such as formalisation of the Informal Economy, implementation of our Decent Work Country Programme, shaping the future of work, within the Context of a Green Economy, the elimination of Child Labour and, Trafficking in Person, the Promotion of Occupational Safety and Health as a philosophy and a way of life in our Nation, and the achievement of as many of the 17 United Nation Sustainable Development Goal. All of these are pursued against a backdrop of the emerging oil and gas industry.

We are more concerned with these cardinal issues rather than the parochial contention concerning the exclusion or inclusion of the word Labour in the Ministry’s name. Without compromising our nation’s sovereignty, the Ministry has helped to foster a stable industrial relations environment conducive for both domestic and foreign investment, which directly influences employment levels.

Finally, any student of labour management relations would recognise or should recognise that since the ascension to Office by the coalition Government, the State of Industrial relations has improved significantly.

This is evidenced by the reduction in the number of strikes, the resolution of long standing differences including the “RUSAL Stand-of”, thousands of individual complaints and the conclusion of multiyear agreement by the social partners in the Private Sector, which signifies inclusiveness rather than antagonism and divisiveness which characterized industrial relations during the past decades.

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