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How about a “One Guyana” minimum wage, not higher wage for Government workers and lower wage for private sector workers?

How about a “One Guyana” minimum wage, not higher wage for Government workers and lower wage for private sector workers?


Dear Editor,

Since our Government is so committed to “One Guyana,” how about a “One Guyana” minimum wage, not a higher minimum wage for Government workers and a lower minimum wage for private sector workers? Why did any Government allow a two-tiered system, where the Private Sector is allowed to pay a lower minimum wage than the Government Sector? Given local content and new oil related companies operating in Guyana, should they have the option of paying a lower Private Sector minimum wage? There was a recent headline, “Oil and gas company only paying wage increases to expats, not locals – GAWU” (SN, June 9, 2022).
The truth is that we don’t and will never have “One Guyana.” There are two inequitable Guyanas – the “haves and the have-nots,” the poor rural Guyana and slightly better off urban Guyana, and the better off Government employees with stabler salaries and benefits versus the self-employed and underemployed. Now that we have mega billions of barrels of oil, and the oil companies get all kinds of tax free concessions and tax-free incomes, why are we still talking about the old “minimum wage” rather than a new paradigm of a “living wage” complete with annual Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) and the emergence of a social welfare state, similar to some European countries?” When will we have the “good life?
The truth is that neither the PNC nor PPP are working class parties anymore. They are the parties allied with the bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie and the oil imperialists against the working poor. Their “working class” ideology died with Mr. Burnham and the Jagans. The PPP and the Private Sector are in each other’s back pockets. They have each other’s backs. The Private Sector groupings and chambers stand ready always to issue any statement of support that will make the Government look good. In reciprocity, the Government does things to benefit big business such as suppression of minimum wages, waiver of taxes and duties, removal of stamp duty, subsidies to reduce shipping costs, special deals, etc. The Private Sector loves the PPP, and the PPP loves the Private Sector. A recent article said, “We see the government and private sector not as sitting on opposite sides of the table but on the same side because our objectives aligned,” Dr. Singh said (“Objectives aligned – Finance Minister says PSC a ‘highly valued partner,’ ”May 12, 2022). Won’t it be nice to see a headline that says, “Government’s objectives completely aligned with the working class.”
There needs to be some investigative reporting on which businesses in the Private Sector got the $4 billion subsidy, purportedly to stabilise shipping costs and keep prices stable. How come prices did not fall after businesses received that subsidy? Consumers are still catching hell with the runaway cost of living.
But while the Government and Opposition have abandoned the workers, the union leadership are abject failures, refusing to call for renegotiation of the oil contracts. The additional money we would get can go towards transformation of the Wages and Salary Structures and Income Support Systems. The Unions have become toothless poodles begging for a new private sector minimum wage of $60,000 from the current $44,000+ and the Government is moving slowly towards approval of such a pittance. Exxon got Liza 1 renewed before the clock struck midnight, but the lowest paid workers must wait. Which family in Guyana can survive if the breadwinner makes just $60,000 a month? The unions begging for $60,000 is a sellout. That figure should be revised to $100,000. The Public Sector minimum wage is $74,900 per month.
Have we no conscience as an oil and resource-rich nation? Where are the voices of the NGOs and preachers who tell people give me your offerings now and God will bless you later in heaven? Apart from Mr. Glenn Lall/KN, Stabroek News, “Our Wealth, Our Country,” Oil and Gas Governance Network (,TIGI, Article 13 and others, who else is speaking out for the working poor of Guyana? You cannot count on the Parliamentary Opposition that is so weak and clueless right now, abrogating their responsibilities, and letting down their supporters.
Trade Unionist Eugene Noel stated that workers in the Caribbean are currently paid more than Guyanese, despite the wealth of resources available here. As if that’s not bad enough, we also have the lowest currency in CARICOM, lower than the teeny tiny islands with no real resources. Wake up Guyana! It’s our wealth and our country. Our working poor deserve a better life!

Dr. Jerry Jailall