– urges authorities to address ‘pauperising’ wage
The Government’s announcement last week of a seven per cent salary increase for all Public Servants retroactive to the beginning of this year has sparked a conversation about pay in the Private Sector, with the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) now calling on private businesses to follow suit in order to attract and retain their workforce.
In a statement made on Thursday, FITUG premised its calls against the backdrop of some businesses in the Private Sector reporting “record-breaking profitability and expansive plans for future investment” despite the wide impacts of COVID-19. While commending the business sector on its buoyant performance, the union federation contended that this could not have been achieved without the contributions and support of employees. As such, FITUG insists that these workers should also benefit from the successes their companies enjoy.
“We believe (that), at the very least, businesses should award their employees no (less) than a seven (7) per cent pay rise. It is our considered view that it allows private businesses to continue to attract and retain skills to sustain their operations, while seeking to alleviate some of the burdens their employees are fetching currently,” the FITUG has said.
FITUG went on to highlight that private companies often fail to address the plights of their employees. In addition to this, the union body further criticised the Private Sector for not passing on certain benefits they received from the tax cuts and other measures implemented by the Government to ease the burden of the pandemic – an issue which President Dr Irfaan Ali had himself raised.
Several efforts made by Guyana Times to contact officials from the Private Sector for a response to the rising calls for changes to employees’ pay were futile.
Nevertheless, FITUG noted in its missive that while a seven per cent pay hike, much like the Public Sector, may not be a lot, it is still several times more than what employees are currently being given by companies.
“As we contrast remuneration in the Public and Private Sectors, we also cannot ignore the widening disparity between the national and Public Sector minimum wages… We are aware that a few businesses pay more than the national minimum wage, but yet there are very many that are rigidly adhering to the basement pay level. At its current level, the national minimum wage is really a pauperisation wage, and we again, as we have several times before, urge the authorities to address in a meaningful manner the long-outstanding issue. Certainly, there is urgent need for an adjustment,” FITUG contended.
Only Wednesday, Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton told <<Guyana Times>> that he would soon be meeting with the National Tripartite Committee, which comprises of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the labour movement representatives, to finalise the enforcement of an increase in the minimum wage from $44,200 to $60,000 per month for Private Sector workers.
Shortly after taking office last year, Minister Hamilton had announced the increase of the Private Sector minimum wage. However, while an order to this effect was made, there was no timeline for its enforcement. This was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on businesses.
But now that a year has passed and the country has been on the path to recovery from the pandemic, Minister Hamilton will be re-engaging the Private Sector on enforcing these increases.
“Everybody agreed that the present minimum wage must be increased. What we have not conclusively dealt with is the timing of the order issued by the Minister – bring that into effect. So that is where we at,” he stated.
According to the Labour Minister, he would be meeting with the Tripartite Committee to “discuss this matter and bring it to a conclusion.” That meeting of the Tripartite Committee could be held as early as next week.
“I have had, and I’ve been having, continuous conversation with the Private Sector. When I came here, the Private Sector raised the issue of the intervention of COVID, and therefore that was a fundamental issue in the conversation within the Tripartite Committee. The union reps of course [were] saying, ‘Sign the order now’, and the Private Sector is saying, ‘Give us some time to revive’ from the pandemic,” he explained.
But even as FITUG lobbies for better wages and salaries for Private Sector workers, the union body joined in expressing concerns over Government’s seven per cent pay rise for Public Servants after taking the wider situation into account as well as the plight of the ordinary people.
However, Government, through its various Ministers including Minister Hamilton, has defended the salary increase, saying that it should be viewed in a wider context with all the other initiatives, including the various cash grants that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration has distributed since coming into office in August 2020.