Public employees bearing brunt of tax, debt burden too long

Stabroek News
May 1, 2002

Related Links: Articles on economic concerns
Letters Menu Archival Menu

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is reiterating its demands for an equitable tax regime, pointing out that wage and salary earners have been bearing the brunt of the tax and debt repayment burden for much too long.

President of the GPSU, Patrick Yarde, referring to this matter in his May Day address, declared that "this must be stopped and stopped now."

The union president said further that yearly the GPSU is told of the critical current account deficit owing to inadequate revenue yet major companies, both private and public, owe the Guyana Revenue Authority hundreds of millions of dollars. Among those evading the tax net, Yarde fingered "proprietors of privately-owned companies and those classified as self-employed who so often declare losses, but their lifestyle dictates otherwise."

Stating that the past year for GPSU members in the public sector had not been a good one, Yarde noted that the government had unilaterally imposed a 5.5% increase in wages and salaries as from January 1, 2001, and according to what he described as the questionable inflation rate of 4.6% as published by the Bureau of Statistics, the real wage or salary increase at December 31 was a mere 1.3%.

He observed that for a worker earning $20,045 per month (the minimum wage) from January 1, 2001, his/her real wage for December would have been $19,123 out of which the government would have deducted $409 as income tax and $918 for NIS, so the real take-home pay for such an employee would be $18,714. And this situation, Yarde said, must be put within the context that the government has been adamant in its refusal to adjust the income tax threshold upward.

"The raising of the tax threshold is important, for while the government's excuse for rejecting the call of the GPSU and the GTUC for a rise in the tax threshold is the loss of revenue it will engender, it nonetheless persists to turn a blind eye to the hundreds of tax dodgers and grants waivers for those who they see as kith and kin", Yarde charged.

The GPSU president in his address also raised the issue of government's failure to honour the award of the Armstrong Tribunal as it applies to allowances, most of which have remained unchanged for almost a decade, Yarde said.

He next raised the issue of the 1999 Memorandum of Agreement to end the public service strike. He made reference to the utilisation of the arbitration provision for the avoidance and settlement of disputes as enshrined in the Public Service Rules whenever a stage of deadlock is declared at the conciliation stage in salary and wage negotiations as it was in 2001, saying it was a "failure of the government to again honour another agreement to which they are a signatory."

He said that the failure of the government in that regard had led to the union serving a notice of intended industrial action. And the reaction of the government, Yarde said, was to call upon the Courts to declare that the 1999 Memorandum of Agreement was not a bona fide Collective Labour Agreement.

According to the GPSU president, the government's objective was to try to prevent the union from taking industrial action since it is obvious that they would seek to have the matter in dispute deemed sub judice.

Yarde added that one of the important goals for the year was the continuation of the union's efforts to obtain 'justice for the public employee', including a just wage and salary, besides justice for those whom the union said were dismissed by the PPP/C administration on fabricated charges.