Response is made to Akbar Khan’s letter, “The Labour Minister did no wrong” (Kaieteur News 28/4/2010).
To argue that the Minister broke no law in his handling of the unresolved six-month old impasse between the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BGCI) when the Minister and Chief Labour Officer admitted to the contrary is being downright ridiculous.
Both Nadir and Persaud are on record acknowledging their recognition of the GB&GWU as the bargaining unit for BCGI workers (see Nadir’s in Kaieteur News 25/3/and 9/4/2010, and Persaud’s in Guyana Times 8/4/2010).
If these men recognise the union consistent with Section 23(1) of the Recognition Act 98:07, and the Minister refuses to act consistent with Chapter 98:01 Section 4 (1) that gives him the power to, then their failures to conciliate in the dispute are their implicit acknowledgement of breaking the law. It’s as simple as that! These men are law breakers and their actions must not be condoned under any guise of affinity or allegiance. Wrong is wrong and right is right, there are no shades, or ifs and buts to it.
Contrary to Khan’s statement, Lincoln Lewis never sought President Jagdeo’s intervention in the GB&GWU/BCGI impasse. President Jagdeo’s involvement was initially sought by both the union and company who requested the reinstatement of the tax free overtime in lieu of pay increase. This act is justified because 1) was the benefit reinstated it would have settled the 2009 wage negotiation and 2) it was the government who took away the benefit from the workers. It should be said that this benefit was singularly fought for and won by bauxite workers. Maybe Khan can help answer the question why the PPP took this benefit away from bauxite, keeps it in sugar, and refuses to reinstate it to bauxite.
The attainment of political independence in May 1966 brought an end to massa rule. This notion that the President and his government are the people’s masters and the people have to submit to them is downright wrong and must be rejected whenever it raises its head. There is no law or constitutional provision that says the public must submit to the President and the government. The Constitution of Guyana (supreme law) said everyone is equal and protects this equality. Mr. Jagdeo by virtue of holding the office as President makes him Guyana’s Chief Public Servant, not master. To this effect he has taken the oath to uphold the constitution and the laws of the land without fear, favour or ill will.
The ministers are also public servants and have taken similar oath. It is therefore the duty of the people to ensure they act in accordance. Persons who hold public offices hold it at the pleasure of the people to manage the affairs of the people consistent with the constitution and laws. The sustenance of government comes from the money of every single taxpayer who funds the salaries, overseas trips and benefits; National Budget and repays the loans. It matters not which party is elected to govern, the principle still stands-once you sit in the seat of government you govern in the interest of all! It is customary to respect office holders because of the office their hold but that respect is subject to the office holders’ behaviour consistent with their responsibilities and when they fail to discharge same they be held accountable and in some countries have to demit office.
If by making legitimate demands of government to be treated equally as enshrined in the constitution Khan sees as “cursing,” let me say I am not fazed by such accusation; neither will it still my voice. As a trade unionist I see Guyana through the eyes of the marginalised; the oppressed; the impoverished; the child who wants a second chance at education but is denied by the government; the workers who give up 33.3 % of their wages/salary and pay 16 % VAT; cannot pay their bills and afford basic amenities; send their children to school and bed hungry fully aware that the government is abusing their taxes and refusing to reinvest it in them and their families; the fear for one’s security, the absence of a job or not knowing when you will lose the one you have; and having no pension (investment) or seeing it destroyed. And because these realities are ugly I am obligated to agitate against them.
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