Georgetown, Guyana (September 26, 2020) His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali has reiterated that while his government remains committed to the improvement in the livelihoods of all categories of workers, including frontline workers, the demands of the protesting nurses are outside of the scope of what the country can afford.
The Head of State made this statement during an interview with the media while fielding questions about the ongoing protest action by Nurses.
He said, “We are committed to ensuring that all categories of workers at the end of the day have a better standard of living, better opportunities and greater prospects in the future. But I want to be frank, I have seen requests that are outside of the scope of what the country can afford. For example, I have seen requests for duty-free access across the board.”
President Ali pointed out that provisions for all categories of workers will have to be looked at in a more holistic and inclusive manner.
“When you are running a country, you can’t only look at one category of workers; you have to look at the broad spectrum. What you do in one category will affect what you do in another,” President Ali explained.
He assured that over the next five years, his government will be taking steps to improve the quality of life of frontline workers, through the provision of housing assistance and better add-on benefits.
“In the next five years, we are looking at assistance in the housing programme, not only increases in salary but better working conditions, better add on benefits,” he said.
He pointed out that Nurses with children will still benefit from the GYD$25,000 per household cash grant, the uniform allowance, the removal of vat on electricity and water, as provided for in the recent Budget.
The President reminded that there are certain categories of workers that are classified as essential workers, and the law speaks very clearly about essential workers and how they are expected to behave and act.
“We understand that every category of worker in this country wants better, they want more. But we want better delivery of service, and we have to match it,” he said.
The Head of State reminded that the situation was worse five years ago, and also called out those “independent actors” looking to exploit the circumstances, and who are using social media to promote divisive narrative.
On this note, he questioned the absence of solidarity in the face of glaring evidence about the socio-economic impact of the closure of the Skeldon, Rose Hall-Canje, Wales and Enmore Estates by the former government.
He said, “Where was the solidarity when more than 7,000 sugar workers were sent home? What was the situation then? Where was the solidarity when 1,000 bauxite workers lost their jobs…There was no socio-economic analysis of the impact of the closure of the estimates? We are forgetting that. We are missing that. We don’t want to answer that question anymore.”
He emphasised that his Administration has no apologies to make for bringing jobs back to the communities affected by the closures.
“We can’t have apologies for bringing back those jobs, for creating those jobs. Similarly, we can’t have apologies for the subsidies and efforts we are going to put into bauxite, or what we are going to put into mining,” the President said.
President Ali reiterated that his government is committed to ensuring that the prospects for all workers are better.