Low earners need better salaries to tackle Guyana’s growing economy – Union Leaders


By Lazeena Yearwood


Though many workers received salary increases last year, Workers’ Unions rallied for employees who are still waiting and called for better working conditions across the board.

Workers decked out in their red attire and took to the streets at about 8:30 hrs for the annual Labour Day parade held under the theme, “Building Strong Progressive Unions to Respond to New Challenges” on Monday.

Seepaul Narine, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) addressing workers on Monday (Photo: News Room/ May 1, 2023)

In keeping with the theme, Seepaul Narine, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) President, said it is paramount the unions that represent workers remain resilient in their efforts to improve the economic situation of employees.

While addressing union members at the National Park, Narine highlighted that the government has made many efforts to assist workers by increasing salaries for some, the availability of subsidies and removal of tax on products. But he noted that the situation remains challenging.

According to him, the reality is that low-earning workers need wages that can provide them with safety and security for not only the present but their future plans as well.

“As an interim measure, to assist our lower-earning workers, the national minimum and public sector minimum wages should be equated to offer relief and breathing room to families who are harmed by the drastic price increases.

“Given our economic trajectory, our call is justifiable, and we are open to engaging in constructive dialogue to arrive at pay levels which are reasonable in the context of our development,” Narine said.

He said retirement and retirement benefits, safety and health, working hours, and labour productivity are all areas that need to be considered when addressing the wages for workers. He urged for “mature conversations” surrounding this, so as to provide a ‘win-win’ situation for all.

President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), Carvil Duncan Photo: News Room/ May 1, 2023)

Meanwhile, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), Carvil Duncan said that Guyana is undergoing a transformation that all should benefit from, highlighting that divide as it relates to wages at different levels must be changed.

“While the grass is growing, the horse is starving. Therefore, if we talk about ‘One Guyana, we must talk about one salary.

“We can’t have persons still getting 60 something thousand dollars while others getting 80 something and they all have to go to the same shop and buy the same thing then maintain the same family, we can’t afford that,” Duncan said.

As is customary every year, workers would march together on Labour Day but split before arriving at the National Park.

In this regard, Narine expressed regrets that the workers’ movement remains divided.

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) met at the Critchlow Labour Collage, while FITUG and GAWU, went to the National Park.

Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton, who spoke with reporters before the march commenced, called for more social welfare and increased wages for all workers.

“It’s one thing to say that you are an oil-rich country, it’s another thing to say look the riches from this oil will meet the people,” Norton said, adding that more must be done to ensure that workers are beneficiaries of the country’s development.

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