May 04, 2010 News
– lashes out at GuySuCo, CLICO, bauxite crisis
A number of trade unions are calling for differences to be set aside and a united front presented to tackle Guyana’s problems.
The call was made, Saturday, by Komal Chand, President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union, during his May Day address at the National Park.
“Unity among workers and their unions is essential to confront the challenges facing the working class in our country. Therefore, it is with great concern that I note that our two trade union centres – the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) have not been able to reconcile their differences.”
Addressing hundreds of workers, predominantly women, and other officials, including Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Chand disclosed that GAWU fully supports a united Trade Union movement and would like to see one to speak with one voice on behalf of the workers in Guyana.
“We contend that if this cannot materialise then there should be established a Council or Committee comprising representatives of both FITUG and the GTUC, to provide an opportunity for collaboration between the two bodies and thus their affiliates.”
The union official referred to the failed effort of a Regional Trade Union icon, Sir Leroy Trotman, whose mediation efforts were not fruitful.
“FITUG cannot be blamed for that. It is time that the GTUC recognises the strength of FITUG. GAWU will play its role within FITUG to support reunification or collaboration.”
“One of our May Day slogans read as follows:- “Yesterday the Bauxite Union, Today CCWU, TOMORROW, WHO NEXT?”
Regarding the festering bauxite’s labour impasse at Rusal, Chand said that GAWU is now constrained to express a single simple view- that the Minister of Labour should reconsider his previous and current indifference with respect to this issue.
“No company or employer has any authority to “de-recognise” a duly recognised bargaining agent; that is the sole prerogative of the country’s Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board. GAWU cannot stand by when Collective Labour Agreements are being flouted…”
GAWU says that it will not be silenced when it comes to the solidarity in the Labour Movement, especially when employers want to bust unions.
“When GAWU considers a matter important to receive its comments, it will do so as a matter of principle. We, therefore, reaffirm our support and solidarity to workers to belong to a union of their choice and give respect to ILO Convention 87 – Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and Convention 98 – Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.”
While there have been positive developments in Guyana, Chand believed that there are also setbacks.
“The sugar industry remains at the crossroads. Last October, the entire 36 per cent cut in the price of our sugar exported to Europe had been effected. The situation was aggravated by an extremely poor sugar production of 233,735 tonnes last year.”
The Guyana Sugar Corporation continues to recycle the same worn out excuses for the industry’s failures including climate change, industrial action and worker absenteeism.
“When the industry fared well in the past those factors were not absent. We take the opportunity to reiterate that the industry’s dismal performance is centered on neglectful and poor management, resulting particularly in inefficient practices in the fields. Our sugar industry, unlike those in the Caribbean, has an abundance of arable land, ample labour, fresh water, sufficient factory capacity, and other resources to perform efficiently, noting that it is an industry over three and a half centuries old.”
The Union official denounced the three per cent wage increase ordered by the Gobind Ganga Arbitral Tribunal last December. “It was an act of spite, we feel, because of the workers’ militancy and the stance of the Union in defending its members.
“Let our members be assured that their Union would not be daunted and cowered. It is the Union’s duty and responsibility to support the democratic rights of its members and to strive to improve their general welfare.”
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