GTUC tells country’s leader…“You are not the head of Parliament”
- says workers live in fear under PPP/C
- warns of Parliamentary actions if jobs are lost
“According to our Constitution, while he is the Head of the Executive
and Head of State, he is not, let me repeat, he is not Head of Parliament. His is the responsibility to execute the mandate of Parliament and in so doing it’s in his best interest to court a congenial rather than adversarial relationship with the Parliament and Opposition Members of Parliament. Ours is not a constitution where the President has veto power.”
This notion was emphatically asserted by General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis, during a fiery May Day speech yesterday to scores of workers at the Critchlow Labour College, Woolford Avenue.
He cautioned that the Head of State has to be mindful about his actions and utterances.
Lewis also stated that threats by government to send home workers over the budget cuts “will not be taken lightly” and could very well see the issue being dealt with in Parliament by the Opposition.
“Job loss is not something labour takes likely because we have an abiding interest in full employment, for any job loss is a loss to income and will affect the economic wellbeing of that worker, their family and the community. This is the principle that guides labour. However, the recent threats being made by the
politicians that workers will have to lose jobs, because the government did not get all they want in the Budget, is something we take very seriously.”
“Should the government carry out its threats to put workers on the breadline for political purposes, then Parliament must take action to ensure whatever decision is taken by the respective government agency is warranted. The workers of this country must no longer be made sacrificial lambs. Labour sincerely hopes the opposition takes this matter seriously, since what is taking place here is as another act of denying and transgressing the rights of workers.”
Addressing the controversial issue of contract workers, which was a hotly debated issue in the National Assembly during the 2012 Budget Debate, the General Secretary accused government of paying persons in excess of what is “normal”. The opposition parties have been accusing government of rewarding its close supporters, family and friends with lucrative contract jobs, while at the sa
me time pursuing a policy of creating a parallel public service.
“Let me make it very clear, a contract worker is not a public servant. A contract worker squats on a public service job and cannot be held accountable under the Public Service rules. It is difficult to understand how persons who are vested with the responsibility to manage the nation’s business have continued to advocate paying workers different salaries and conditions for performing the same duties, and the only conclusion that can be arrived at, is that the government is comfortable exploiting a group of workers by paying them different salaries for the same job, and creating a divide and rule at the workplace, which undermines the professional environment and compromises delivery of service.”
The contract workers are at the whims and fancy of the government and have no protection under the law, he said.
“The PPP’s programme of degutting the Public Service as an institution, violating the Public Service Rules and the Trades Union Recognition Act (1997) Section 22, and transgressing the rights of workers must be brought to an end. The introduction of contract work in state entity has dehumanised our young men and women and it comes a time that we have to say enough is enough.”
Lewis insisted that questions must be answered.
“And since the people of this country have voted to change the manner in which of our business is conducted, the questions raised by the Parliament must be answered, and the arrogance of the government to decide they will not answer, speaks to their non-realisation that the tenth Parliament is not the same as the ninth.”
The union leader opined that the government’s threat that a number of workers are going to lose their jobs as a result of the cuts made by the opposition to the budget is a self-serving political act.
Region 10 revenge
“Labour considers the PPP’s recent statement as a threat and more so a vindictive reaction to Region 10 for the political choice they made on November 28, 2011. The electricity situation is in management crisis and its needs to be fixed rather than pass on the burden to the consumers. It is said that on the coastland we have a forty percent line loss and in Linden, thirty percent. Let the government fix this wastage before it first talks about increasing electricity in Linden and the coastland.”
Lewis warned that the proposed hike is a smokescreen since it is only the Public Utilities Commission that can authorize any increase in tariff.
The GTUC Secretary also accused former President Bharrat Jagdeo of destroying the working class relationship.
“In all administrations prior to Bharrat Jagdeo’s, workers were allowed the freedom of association and determination of their thrust for this (May) Day. Today under this administration, led by a man (President Donald Ramotar) who came out of GAWU as a leading member, we have a mockery of the working class, where workers whose rights are violated by this regime are forced; threatened by loss of jobs, if they do not participate in employer-led actions, even though these actions are against their interests. Workers continue to live in fear under this administration.”
“For the executive arm of government to choose to malign groups in Parliament for discharging their constitutional responsibility…for questioning and expressing different opinions from that of the Executive has to be seen as an imposition,” Lewis stressed.
Workers’ unions have warned government of attempting to sacrifice workers amidst an escalating row over the slashing of $21B from the 2012 National Budget by Parliamentary opposition parties recently.
Also present at the Critchlow Labour College yesterday was Minister of Labour, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, Mayor Hamilton Green, several Parliamentarians and Opposition Leader, Brigadier (retired), David Granger.