The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has approached the High Court seeking to have the seven percent pay hike announced by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh last year for public servants declared unlawful because of the absence of consultation.
In a Fixed Date Application (FDA) filed against the Attorney General (AG) and Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Public Service Ministry, the GPSU contended that owing to no consultation as contrary to the Article 149C of Guyana’s Constitution, the increase for public servants is unlawful.
As such, the GPSU is asking for a mandatory Order for the AG and the PS to enter into meaningful negotiations with the Union under the Memorandum of Agreement between the Guyana Public Service Union and the Public Service Ministry for the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes, as contained in Appendix Q1 of the Public Service Rules 1987, and the Memorandum of Agreement between the Guyana Public Service Union and the Federated Union of Government Employees and the Public Service Ministry Terms of Resumption of Work dated the 23rd day of June 1999.
The Union is also seeking $2 million in damages for the breach of the terms, conditions, and procedures in the above-mentioned Memorandum of Agreement.
In a letter dated September 1, 2020, the GPSU said it wrote to the PS for the Public Service Ministry requesting the commencement of negotiations in respect of salaries, wages, and allowances for the year 2020.
In the correspondence, the Union asked that the request be treated urgently to avoid a unilateral end-of-year imposition without the necessary consultation and enclosed its proposals.
The GPSU noted in the court documents that a meeting was convened on November 4, 2020, with Minister of Public Service Sonia Parag, at which no decision was made.
But instead, the Minister “having represented that she had not been mandated to enter into these discussions with the Claimant.”
With no further response and no further meeting, the GPSU, on December 14, 2020, wrote to President Irfaan Ali, bringing to his attention that no meeting or conference had been convened, as contemplated by the Collective Labour Agreements in force.
“In December 2020, no declaration was made by the Government of Guyana in respect of increases in wages, salaries, and allowances for persons employed in the public service in Guyana,” the court document said.
On March 11, 2021, the GPSU wrote to the PS of the Public Service Ministry, requesting that a meeting be convened urgently to begin negotiations for wages, salaries, and allowances for the years 2020 and 2021.
“On November 18, 2021, without any meeting or conference having been convened between the [GPSU] and the [PS or AG, Dr Ashni Singh], in an address to the Guyanese public, declared that the Government of Guyana had taken a decision to award a seven percent increase to public servants, said increase to apply retroactively to January 1, 2021.”
As of the filing of the FDA, the PS had failed or refused to meet with the GPSU to discuss and negotiate public servants’ wages, salaries, and allowances.