Govt announces full-time contracts with gratuity for sweeper/cleaners

In a move to improve their working conditions and remuneration, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Cabinet has given its approval for sweeper/cleaners at all public schools to be immediately employed on a full-time contract gratuity basis with a minimum wage level in the public service.

Sweeper/cleaners previously protesting for better working conditions and benefits

Under the chairmanship of President Irfaan Ali, Cabinet recently instructed that steps be taken to regularise the manner in which sweeper/cleaners are employed and paid at public schools.
Sweeper/cleaners, workers employed by the Education Ministry to maintain a clean and healthy environment in public schools, have long been pushing to also be considered regular employees in the public sector and receive similar benefits including salaries. Currently, the minimum wage for public servants is $70,000.
According to Government on Friday, “This decision [by Cabinet] brings to closure a long outstanding matter which has affected this category of workers in the public school system.”
In addition, it was noted that steps have also been initiated to address other pending anomalies in the salaries being paid to other categories of employees, including some teachers who are affected by inconsistencies in their pay grades depending on the year in which they were appointed.
“Government has already started working to take stock of this problem with a view to resolving it going forward,” it was announced on Friday.
These initiatives all form part of the PPP/C Government’s ongoing efforts to improve the conditions of employment of public sector workers.
In December 2020, Central Government employees received a one-off grant of $25,000, while in December 2021, they received an across-the-board seven per cent salary increase. This increase was provided for teachers, members of the Disciplined Services, constitutional office holders, as well as Government pensioners.
Additionally, the Government restored the one-month tax-free bonus paid to members of the Disciplined Services, which had been discontinued by the APNU/AFC while they were in office.
Meanwhile, this move by the Government to regularise sweeper/cleaners was lauded by the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), which has been advocating for this over the years.
The Union said it is “heartening” that after decades of representation, approval has been finally granted for these workers to receive monthly salaries at the prevailing minimum wages of the public service.
“Our Sweeper/Cleaners are valuable human resources, who perform tasks critical to their wellbeing and performance of the nation’s children and the related workforce, ensuring safe, clean, and conducive environments for learning and work. Following the reopening of schools by the Government, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic also require Sweepers/Cleaners to undertake more extensive and risky sanitisation tasks because of its potentially deadly impact,” it stated.
In the same breath, however, the GPSU expressed its disappointment that the sweeper/cleaners are being retained on a contract gratuity basis and not co-opted into the permanent pensionable establishment.
“The GPSU had always clearly expressed this requirement to Government, as it is considered most deserving to their security of tenure… The Government’s decision to regularise the pay structures and recognise the need for superannuation benefits should have added some permanence to the perceived structure to ensure that retirement would come with some benefits,” the union noted.