Nov 06, 2008 News
The Guyana Labour Union’s (GLU) call for a mandatory 20 per cent increase for municipal workers was yesterday regarded as unrealistic and unreasonable by Andrew Garnett, President of the Guyana Local Government Officers’ Union (GLGOU).
The GLGOU, which is tasked with representing primarily the officers of the municipality, had successfully negotiated with the council earlier this year for a 10 per cent increase for its workers.
The GLU, on the other hand, had negotiated for a 20 per cent increase for 2007 and 2008 (10 per cent for each year) and was adamant that the amount be paid as soon as possible to workers.
However, the council had stated its inability to meet the payment demands, thus causing the GLU to take the matter to arbitration.
But according to Garnett, the GLGOU workers were in receipt of some of the retroactive payment last month-end, based on his union’s negotiation with the council. He added that the continued payment is a work in progress which he believes that the council will completely honour eventually.
Garnett explained that while his union had initially lobbied for a 15 per cent increase for the workers, it was cognisant that the council did not have the financial capacity to do so.
He noted, too, that the union was willing to relinquish its demand altogether for a similar increase last year, based on the observed financial situation.
According to Garnett, it is his belief that a union leader should never try to raise the expectation of its workers to an unrealistic level, even as he noted that the workers represented by the GLGOU have also recognised that the council is undoubtedly in a cash-strapped position. He divulged that the union had had several meetings with its workers to explain the financial status of the municipality even before it attempted to negotiate for an increase, adding that the workers understood and accepted and were willing to move on.
“Union leaders must be truthful to workers…They must never raise workers to a level they cannot take them. Any good leader will show leadership in a crisis situation,” said Garnett.
It was for this reason, he said, that the approach of his union was geared at partnering with the council with a view to deriving strategies that could result in the workers being paid.
He pointed out that the union has recognised that the workers cannot be paid if no money is available, thus the need for a crucial collaboration process.
Reports reaching this newspaper suggest that some of the staffers have become reluctant to the strategies that have been engaged by the GLU to force the hands of the municipality to pay an increase to the near 60 per cent of the workers it represents.
And according to Garnett, the GLU pressure on the council simply means that it would weaken the municipality, a situation which could see workers being retrenched in their numbers.
“When you examine the situation the money just isn’t there. They (municipality) have revenue losses and there is no way it can be regained before the end of this year.”
Garnett further expounded on the notion that “there is a time for everything”, noting that in years past, workers have been able to benefit from good increases, thus union leaders must be able to compromise in a time when such payments cannot be afforded due to the current state of the council’s finances.
“We look across the world and we see how many workers are on the breadline and we realise that we had to accept a reasonable increase…”
Garnett pointed out that should the City Council react in the interest of increased payment alone, it could mean the loss of jobs of several semi-skilled and unskilled workers.
He noted that the onus should be on all union leaders to negotiate in good faith so as to preserve the jobs of workers.
However, up to yesterday the rank and file workers of the municipality, based on the instruction of the GLU General Secretary, Carvil Duncan, were still engaged in industrial action in the form of a ‘go-slow’.
According to Duncan in an invited comment yesterday, the workers will continue the subtle form of industrial action pending the intervention of the Minister of Labour, Manzoor Nadir.
Duncan noted that Chief Labour Officer Mohamed Akeel was expected to have provided the Minister with a report on the arbitration process between the union and the municipality, which he will pronounce on after perusing same.
He related that based on the Minister’s decision the union will determine whether its next move will be a full blown strike action with marching along the streets of Georgetown.
City Mayor, Hamilton Green, at a press conference on Monday, had noted that there is no question that workers should be afforded an increase in pay, adding that it is in the interest of the council to have a satisfied work force.
He, however, noted that there just are not sufficient funds within the coffers of the municipality to facilitate such an undertaking at the moment.
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