GPSU criticises Government over cancellation of arbitration talks
Guyana Chronicle
May 12, 2004

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GUYANA Public Service Union (GPSU) has lashed out at the Government over the meeting aborted yesterday to finalise arrangements for arbitration of their pay dispute.

GPSU President Patrick Yarde told a Press conference, at their Regent Road and New Garden Street, Georgetown headquarters, that the talks were cancelled because Permanent Secretary, Public Service Ministry (PSM), Dr Nanda Gopaul is out of the country visiting a seriously ill sister.

Yarde said the union was not questioning Gopaul’s absence but is concerned that no one was named to deputise for him.

“Dr Gopaul’s absence from the country at this time must be judged by the breaking off of negotiations under the pretext of statements emanating from our union which the Government considered to be offensive and conflict prone and not in keeping with normal industrial relations practice,” Yarde argued.

“While the union will not question the reason for Dr Gopaul’s absence, we must express our concern and condemnation of why Dr Gopaul’s absence must necessitate the cancellation of the meeting, since it suggests the absence of competent officers within the Public Service Ministry and, for that matter, the Public Service of Guyana, capable of dealing with the issues…” the GPSU President declared.

Yarde said agreement on the chairman of the arbitration panel should not pose much difficulty as, in the past, GPSU endorsed Government nominees.

The union previously accepted Dr Aubrey Armstrong, attorney-at-law Mr Hubert Rodney and Father Malcolm Rodrigues, all nominated by Government.

Yarde said, even though he was abroad, the two sides still met on May 4 because colleagues sat in his place.

He said it was “irresponsible” of Government not to name a replacement for Gopaul and charged that rising prices should cause the negotiations to be treated with urgency.

According to Yarde:“The question that arises is how can we have such an important Ministry within our Government, in which work has to be held up or delayed by the absence of one senior functionary.

“Or are we to assume that the work of the Public Service Ministry is not being held up by Dr Gopaul’s absence, but that the Ministry/Government places a low priority on the improvement of the well-being of public employees, especially those represented by the Guyana Public Service Union?

“Or is it that the Government is expecting a response from the union from which charges of bad behaviour can be levelled and so again frustrate the instituting of the arbitration procedures?” Yarde asked.

Charging the Government with “lacking good governance”, he said GPSU has not changed its views on the subject and accused the Administration of being “insensitive” to public concerns.

Yarde said GPSU “has taken on the challenge to bring back good governance.”

Government and GPSU reached agreement in March this year to settle the questions of increases in salaries and allowances for 2004-2006 by arbitration.

However, on agreeing to the process, the union had stated that the seven meetings held between February and March this year took pace in an “atmosphere of cordiality devoid of any rancour” and expressed the hope that the continuing relationship with representatives of the Government would be the same.