President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) Patrick Yarde said the treatment of workers and their rights continues to deteriorate and against this background “the Struggle for the Restoration of Labour Rights Nationally appears most appropriate.”
In his New Year’s Day message, Yarde said the Union is obliged to reiterate its concern at the problems inherent in an undesirable culture to which the Government ‘obviously’ subscribes in its relationship with its employees and their representative organization, namely, the GPSU.
He noted the pattern set by the Government and said it has undoubtedly served to encourage other employers to emulate Government’s behaviour.
“It is therefore not accidental that employees and their unions in other sectors in Guyana, even those who by any measure cannot be described as among the opponents or non sympathizers of the Government, are also the victims of similar treatment”.
Yarde noted, too, that the arbitrary imposition of salary increases and other benefits and conditions, in the process repudiating legally binding collective bargaining agreements; failure to bargain in good faith with recognized unions in violation of the law pertaining to such practices; attempts to ignore recognized unions and have them de-recognized, while at the same time encouraging members of recognized unions to cancel their membership and discouraging and coercing workers to not join unions as some of the key issues.
In addition, he said that the arbitrary cancellation of check-off systems in full consciousness of their debilitating effects on trade unions and their activities; has become common practice in Guyana as is currently manifested in the bauxite industry.
Yarde categorically condemned the practices and actions as being in violation of the constitution and laws of Guyana, and of core ILO Conventions which the Government is under obligation to observe and respect. Instead, workers have been systematically deprived of elements designed for their protection. In this sense many doors previously opened have been closed, and must therefore be reopened.
“We are well aware and appreciative that over time there has been significant recognition and support from major sections of the public against the undermining effects of such violations of the rights of workers, and their detrimental effects on the public interest. Nonetheless, we have failed to galvanize broad based ongoing support to reverse these.”
As a consequence, these practices and behaviour patterns have now blossomed into glaring civil and human rights abuses. This situation is compounded by relevant institutions being dysfunctional and thus rendering the ability to secure justice ineffective.
The GPSU President also slammed aid donors as contributing to the problem and said “The failure of certain aid donors and international organizations in their dealings with states that violate the rights of workers to recognize and treat such phenomena as unacceptable, and apply corrective action such as insisting on certain codes of conduct and conditional ties, adds to the problem”.
Ultimately, Yarde said this is a national problem which must be of grave concern to all citizens, as it possesses the potential of opening the door to much wider human rights violations, and further undermining the tenets of good governance – constitutionality and legality; transparency; integrity; credibility and equitable treatment for all.
He said from his vantage point “it is clear that year 2010 would be both challenging and associated with a number of serious threats to the welfare and well-being of all members of our union and the Guyanese society.” He encourages all to “be prepared to dedicate ourselves to acquire a proper understanding of these problems and issues – their origins and nature – and means of addressing and resolving them”.
The GPSU president also noted that it is imperative that Guyanese “set aside the fears that serve to fragment, and strive for the fulfilment of good governance, a sine qua non to achieve national harmony, broad based development, a fairer society with prospects of prosperity for all.”
“Together these ideals are achievable by us, and in pursuit of our individual goals and aspirations I urge you to contribute to their achievement.”
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