– lashes GTU over “few pieces of silver” deal
Unions affiliated to the Guyana Trades Union Congress yesterday warned that it will be upping the ante on government, even taking to the streets, over the coming months unless wage talks are fruitful.
The announcement was made yesterday during the May Day rally of the unions’ umbrella body, which was held at the Critchlow Labour College, Woolford Avenue.
The annual May Day march was characterized this year by a three-way split, for the first time, signaling increasing differences between the unions. The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTUC) went their separate way as did unions under the other umbrella grouping the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG). As expected, GTUC’s General Secretary, Norris Witter, and senior official, Lincoln Lewis joined in blasting the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration, noting that while they will not be telling people who to vote for in the coming elections, they will be advising Guyana who not to vote for.
The ‘GTUC’ rally, which has become a tradition now at the iconic Critchlow Labour College, saw the support of the main opposition, People’s National Congress Reform, the Guyana Minibus Union, the Women’s Advisory Committee and the Guyana Public Service Union, among others. PNCR Leader Robert Corbin, Deputy Basil Williams, Presidential Candidate David Granger and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union, were also there.
“Cuss” back too
According to Lewis, this year the stakes are much higher and workers should fight to ensure that the lands, which is being given away by the administration, should be protected.
In a subtle reference to President Bharrat Jagdeo’s statements last year to Barama workers, Lewis warned that he is not afraid and will “cuss” out too. The President, in lashing out at critics last year, had controversially said that if his critics “cuss” him down, he stood ready to “cuss” them back.
Lewis, riling up the crowds, accused the government of placing “lackeys” to run state corporations instead of finding competent professionals.
GTUC had proposed to government a housing plan to help bridge the needs of that sector. This was earmarked for the Linden highway. However, after being asked to prepare a concept document, the government backtracked and refused to entertain the idea.
“We allow ourselves to be ridden…this can only happen if your back is bent or you are a jackass,” he challenged the workers.
In the area of crime, Lewis noted that the irony is that under the current administration’s watch, crime rates have risen to horrific levels.
he said that criminals are operating with impunity and it was only with the US intervention that convicted drug baron, Roger Khan, was arrested. He referred to the Friday arrest by New York police of Dr. Randy Persaud, a consultant with close links to the Office of the President. Arrests of top brackets supporters of the government for wrongdoings could not happen here, he inferred.
Against the background of all this, is the unsolved mass murders at Lusignan, Bartica, Lindo Creek, and Agricola. Government has even refused to investigate the crime spree of early 2002-2004 and has refused international help, the GTUC General Secretary noted.
He added that while the government has nit-picked the recent speech Tacuma Ogunseye as being inciteful, it was a mere slap on the wrist for President Jagdeo who utter remarks that were fiery at the recent celebrations at Babu John.
Turning his attention to the PPP/C Presidential Candidate, Donald Ramotar, Lewis noted his recent appointment as the President’s Political Advisor and said that Guyana should not be surprised if he is named Prime Minister.
The trade union official was convinced that the appointment was a clear move to allow state resources to be used by the party for campaign financing.
He also lashed out at the RUSAL issue in which the company was accused of firing more than 50 union workers “illegally”.
The matter has been dragging on for more than a year with no end in sight and no intervention from government.
He warned that if the wages negotiations break down, the trade unions would not be unwilling to take to the streets. “This is not honky dory.”
GTUC President, Norris Witter, in a clear hint of unhappiness over GTU’s decision to accept a wage deal, said that there were trade union leaders willing to sell themselves for a few pieces of silver.
It will be the tasks of the workers to identify these leader, “shake them down” and deal with them “appropriately”.
According to Witter, the reality is that government has decided to deal with critics in a “good guy, bad guy” manner. This meant punishment for those who refuse to cooperate and reward for those that do.
Warning that GTUC was not dead, Witter said that the time is coming for more pressure to be exerted.
The union leader also made it clear that while many are of the belief that GTUC’s job is only to struggle for social and economic benefits, there is a role for political struggle too.
He urged members to go over every valley and hill to bring people out to vote and that “retreat and surrender are clearly not options”.
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