Government has refused arbitration for public servants wages
Stabroek News
February 15, 2002

Dear Editor,

Those, who have the responsibility to make rational decisions in the interest of all, seem bent on repeating the mistakes of the past.

They are once again underestimating or disregarding the strength of unity, the determination of the working class. Less than three years ago, there was a strike by public servants which lasted fifty-seven days. It ended on June 23, 1999 when representatives of the Government and the Guyana Public Service Union met and signed a resumption of work agreement.

This was an agreement witnessed by representatives from the Guyana Bar Association, the Guyana Council of Churches, the Private Sector Commission and the Guyana Trades Union Congress, who comprised the Mediation Team.

Part of the terms of that agreement was the appointment of an arbitration tribunal, should negotiations and conciliation fail, in future, to break the deadlock.

The Agreement signed by Dr Luncheon reads: "In future where salary and wages negotiations fail to result in agreements and third party conciliation of 50 days fail, it is agreed that, until entrenched into collective agreement, the parties will, in respect of future disputes, adopt the methods of arbitration as set out in this agreement".

It goes on to explain that the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Public Service Union will each nominate a member of the tribunal and the Chairman will be agreed on jointly. The tribunal, within 60 days, will make an award which shall be binding on both sides. Simple and uncomplicated.

Everyone who has been following the issue will know that the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Pubic Service Union have been in negotiations about the wages for public servants for 2001. In those negotiations, the Government proposed a 5.5 percent increase as a final offer. The Union rejected this.

Under an agreement, the two parties sought to break the deadlock by utilizing the process of conciliation through the Ministry of Labour. Again there was to be no agreement. Again there was a deadlock.

In the circumstances, the GPSU proposed that the matter be taken to arbitration, the next legal and logical step, which exists in an agreement between the Pubic Service Ministry and the Guyana Public Service Union. The Chief Labour Officer was written to by the GPSU and requested to put in place the process of arbitration in the dispute over wages for public servants.

Quite astonishingly, the Government has been communicating that it is not in favour of proceeding along that course.

Where is the respect for those members of the Mediation Team who, in the national interest, gave their time and energy to resolve a difficult situation? Where is the respect for public servants? Where is the respect for signed agreement?

It is a culture that ignores signed contracts and agreements with foreign investors and places this country at risk with the probable loss of potential investors. It is a culture of arrogance.

Arrogance has replaced dialogue, sensible negotiations and commonsense.

Once again, the Guyana Public Service Union stands to protect the interest of those it represents. We draw from those before us who stood up forty years ago against tyranny, made sacrifices and demonstrated until the victory was won.

Yours faithfully,

Chandrawattie Persaud
Research & Training Officer
Guyana Public Service Union