The 7% wage and salary increase for 2021: the GPSU and the Opposition’s hypocrisy

The Government announced a 7% increase across-the-board for Public Servants and a $400M top-up for frontline healthcare workers. The PNC/APNU/AFC and the GPSU immediately condemned the Government, insisting that the 7% is unconscionable. This is the same GPSU who had said they had an agreement with the Granger-led Government in 2015 for salary increases in 2016, 2017 and 2018 for a flat payment of $7,500 per month to all public servants, together with a pay increase of 25% across- the-board for 2016, a flat payment of $7,000 per month and 20% increase across-the-board for 2017, and $9,000 per month and 20% increase across-the-board for 2018. None of that happened, not even close to these proposed increases, with only single-digit increases happening. Adding salt to the open wounds, APNU/AFC gave themselves a 100% increase in salaries and allowances. Throughout all of those sordid, shameful years, the GPSU sat silent.

Similarly, APNU/AFC/PNC are totally hypocritical when they criticise the 7% across-the-board increase. Not only did they restrict Public Servants’ increases to single digits in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, but faced with an election which they delayed for more than a year, the PNC announced an election gimmick pay increase in November 2019, retroactive to January 2019. Public Servants earning less than G$100,000 a month received a 7% increase; G$100,000 to G$299,999 got a 6.5% increase; G$300,000 to G$499,999 got a 5% increase; G$500,000 to G$699,999 got 3% increase; G$700,000 to G$799,999 got 2%; G$800,000 to G$999,999 got 1%; and above G$1 million got 0.5% increase. The only persons ever to get double-digit increases were the Ministers, who got as much as a 100% increase. Suddenly, these same people believe that the PPP’s 7% increase across-the-board for 2021 is a criminal act.

They also disowned their irresponsibility that, by illegally delaying the elections for more than a year, and then illegally holding on to power for an additional five months after losing an election, they denied Public Servants salary increases for 2020. Also, these are the same charlatans that took away annual bonuses from the Police, prison, fire and military services between 2015 and 2020. These are the same hypocritical critics who took away the jobs of more than 7,000 sugar workers, and then the fired sugar workers had to go to the courts to get their severance payments.

These are the same people who fired 2,000 Amerindian Community Development Officers without ever thinking of any alternative way for these young Amerindians to make a living. Yet, today, when the Government of Guyana is granting an across-the-board salary increase to Public Servants retroactive to January 2021, in addition to several cash relief programs throughout 2021, the PNC and their appendages, like the AFC and the WPA, denounce the move as not just inadequate, but criminal.

The PNC, like the GPSU, are not just being petty, they continue to be obstructionist. They find fault with everything, relentlessly picking petty quarrels. They have refused any cooperation with Government to make changes to ensure GECOM’s conduct in future elections prevent a repeat of March 2020. They claim they will conduct their own internal consultations for any possible change in the operation of GECOM. One of the PNC’s appendages has decided that the changes proposed by the Government are totally unacceptable, but they have also refused to make any counter-proposal. They are being petty. These are politicians who cannot rise above their petty obsession, believing that unless they are in Government, they must ensure Guyana cannot move forward.

As our OIL and GAS riches begin to become reality, there are those among us who are desperate to ensure we remain stagnant, that we put before our people every possible barrier. The PNC and the small political parties that have become appendages of the PNC are desperate, and will do anything to prevent Guyana from moving forward. A few weeks ago, one group of Guyanese in Brooklyn, linked to the PNC, called for burning down of Georgetown.

Earlier, David Hinds called for “undermining the Government of Guyana “by any means necessary.” His call was reminiscent of the PNC’s call in 1997 and 2001, to make Guyana ungovernable through the “slo fyah, mo’ fyah” campaign. Soon after Hinds’s outburst and the Brooklyn group’s call to burn down Georgetown, a spate of fires has destroyed a number of buildings, including the Brickdam Police Station and, just this past week, Police buildings at Eve Leary.

Fifty-eight years ago, on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, the American President, was assassinated. On that night, he had ended his trip with an appeal to Americans to “let us not be petty, because our cause is great”. Guyana has endured too many years of being a poor developing country. Now, because President Janet Jagan, in 1999, dared to sign a deal with EXXON, we are poised to be among the world’s richest countries. We, the people, need to work together to change Guyana’s destiny, to move Guyana ahead as the most advanced economy in Caricom. Our people deserve this new dispensation. The only barrier right now is us, we ourselves stand before us as our worst possible enemies.