City, workers unions for wages conciliation

Stabroek News
December 20, 2002

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The two unions representing municipal workers, the Local Government Officers Union (LGOU) and the Guyana Labour Union (GLU), have asked the Labour Ministry to conciliate in their salaries and wages dispute with the city council.

At an extraordinary statutory meeting of the council last week councillors rejected a counter offer from the LGOU and the GLU for increased salaries and wages for this year. The two unions had initially proposed increases varying from 8% for the senior staff to 10% for the middle and lower grades retroactive from January 1, 2002, totalling more than $75M.

The council's response is that it could only afford to pay 4.5% to the senior staff, 6% to those in the middle and 8% to those in the lower grade, totalling nearly $33M and effective from July 1, 2002. The constabulary would get a 5% increase.

At last week's meeting a counter-proposal by the two unions for a 5% for senior staff and 7% and 9% for those in the middle and lower grades respectively making a total of just over $65M retroactive from January 1, 2002 did not find favour with the city 'fathers' and 'mothers'.

Mayor Hamilton Green defending the council's stand said "we have not been able to meet our targets, because of a shortfall of funds...we cannot act irresponsibly". He, however, pointed to the need for the workers "to get something."

Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, who is also chairman of the council's Finance Committee made out a case to show why the council could only afford $33M retroactive from July 1 this year, while mentioning the current financial obligations of the municipality.

He was prepared to go to conciliation or even arbitration.

The leader of the PNCR faction on the council, Oscar Clarke, who was joined by former Mayor Ranwell Jordan appealed to the unions to accept the council's offer. Councillor Clarke noted that with the introduction of the Institutional Strengthening Programme from January 1, 2003, which was put together by the consulting firm of S.V. Jones Associates, those workers who performed would be adequately compensated, while the non-performers must be prepared to go.

A spokesman for the two unions told this column that a letter seeking the Labour Ministry's intervention was sent two days ago and regretted that the issue could not have been resolved in negotiations with the council. He questioned the council's decision to fix the retroactive payout from July 1 instead of January 1 this year, insisting that salaries and wages negotiations within the municipality are normally finalised at the end of the calendar year. (Cecil Griffith)

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