Public service wage talks back on track
Gopaul cites union's 'good behaviour'
Stabroek News
May 5, 2004

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Arbitration talks on public sector wages are set to resume next Tuesday as a result of "good behaviour" on the part of GPSU members, Perma-nent Secretary of the Public Service Ministry (PSM) Dr Nanda Gopaul said yesterday.

In a telephone interview with Stabroek News yesterday, Gopaul said that lately the conduct of members of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) had been of a professional nature, which prompted the PSM to attend the meeting yesterday to which the union was invited. The Industrial Relations Depart-ment in the Labour Ministry had called the meeting with a view to finding an early solution to the pay hike issue.

Gopaul said the union and the PSM are to meet on Tuesday when the PSM would respond to proposals that the union would have made. According to the PS, the parties are exploring the possibility of having a mutually agreed person chair the arbitration panel.

Gopaul had postponed two meetings scheduled for March 23 and April 7 after, he said, the GPSU indulged in making inflammatory statements on national television; publicly called on workers to join protest demonstrations and participated in the "Rule of Law" march on March 20. Gopaul had said that this act by the union had prejudiced the then ongoing discussions aimed at establishing the criteria for arbitration determining the Terms of Reference of a Tribunal to arbitrate in the dispute over wages and salaries for public service employees for the period 2004 - 2006.

Gopaul said yesterday that the PSM had assessed the situation and found that there was no disruption during the time described as the "cooling off" period. However, should there be future disruptions of any kind the PSM would review this position.

The GPSU had said recently that it had deemed the postponement counter- productive and it had also pledged to continue its support for the Rule of Law campaign.

In a letter to Gopaul on April 22, 2004, President of the GPSU Patrick Yarde said the union's Executive Council expressed its strongest condemnation of the administration's "continued insensitive, uncaring and unlawful conduct in dealing with matters pertaining to the welfare of the members of the public workforce".

Yarde's letter said too that the administration has instituted three years of "meaningless" salaries adjustments "and at the same time, added to their exploitation by the imposition of an onerous tax burden...all being done in conflict with the enlightened and agreed process of collective bargaining consistent with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 87, 98 and 151."

In the letter, which was also copied to Chief Labour Officer Mohamed Akeel and the Minister of Labour Dr Dale Bisnauth, Yarde said the administration's failing to submit itself for the conclusion of the Terms of Reference (TOR) left the GPSU with no choice but to take industrial action, to be effected at a time of the union's choosing.

Leslie Melville of the GPSU said that the meeting yesterday, which started at 9 am and lasted some 45 minutes, was of a cordial nature. He also made the point that the union's position was that government should go ahead with the negotiations. He said too that the union saw no need for the government to break off the negotiations. (Johann Earle)