… Minister promises intervention if situation persists
President of the Guyana Local Government Officers’ Union (GLGOU), Dales Beresford, had the
troublesome task of explaining to city-based stallholders yesterday, the reason for markets being closed for business.
A number of market operators stormed the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) after they arrived at work to find the doors to city markets, the abattoir and other Council arms closed.
Some of the operators were for the first time learning about the scheduled strike and expressed discontent; especially since Christmas is less than two weeks away, and the peak shopping period has also begun.
These stallholders will have to brace themselves for more strike action today since the M&CC was up to last evening, still unable to approve the five percent increase slated for the GLGOU members.
According to the union, on two occasions the M&CC failed to approve the increase and further, placed conditions on how the money should be paid out. The union is in total disagreement with those conditions, Beresford said, since it is outside of the collective labour agreement between the two parties.
However, the Council is being pressured by the union round-robin, the councilors to have the money approved. Although the round-robin system was deployed yesterday, only five councilors signed off for the approval of the sums while three others voted against. This means that there is no conclusion to the matter, since it would take some 17 council members to sign off on the document.
“It is unfortunate that citizens will continue to suffer as a result of this, but the strike will continue
until we are given our increases,” Beresford maintained.
Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker, at a press conference yesterday afternoon, slammed the M&CC for what he said was an avoidable break in service to citizens. He charged that the Council is in fact putting itself before its staff and citizens, since the councilors are refusing to pay city workers because they (the Councilors) have not received increases in their allowances.
He said that the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) which represents the city ancillary staff and the GLGOU which represents technical, professional and administrative staff both have collective bargaining agreements with the Council, which in terms outline a collective bargaining process.
In the agreements, the personnel and training committee and the finance committee makes recommendations to the full council for approval. The GLU, the Minister said, was able to secure an agreement with the Council and it was approved.
“On the other hand, the negotiations between the Council and the GLGOU have seen extraneous issues factoring into the bargaining process.”
He said that while the same procedure which allowed for an agreement with the GLU was used to deal with the GLGOU, the Council has set pre-conditions for approval of increases for those members.
The pre-conditions, he said, include “the issue of increased duty and travel allowances and gratuity payments for councilors.” He explained further, that Council contended “that any approval of the agreement for the local government officers must take into consideration their request of increased benefit for councilors.”
The Council also wants this payment retroactive to 2012, “when indeed Councilors’ remuneration is appropriated out of Council funds, with the approval of the Minister. It is a totally different thing,” he opined.
Minister Whittaker charged that “the demand of a cash-strapped, non -performing, inept, lethargic Council that has been unable over many years to garner as much as 50 percent of its budgeted revenue, and which has found itself hard pressed to deliver even some basic services and maintain basic infrastructure, is ridiculous.”
Minister Whittaker said that by late yesterday he had dispatched a letter to Mayor Hamilton Green requesting that the Council work to resolve the matter. If this is not done, then the government will intervene to rectify the matter, Whittaker said.
He refused to say how the government plans to address the matter since according to him, it is hoped that the situation will not have to see the Ministry’s intervention.
The Mayor and City Council has claimed that the ongoing issue has not been portrayed in its entirety. The Councils communication officer, Royston King, told the media that during the last statutory meeting certain vital information was requested from the Council’s treasury department but it was not available at the time.
As a result, a motion was passed for an adjournment of the meeting until the information was provided. When the information was not provided, he said, the meeting agenda could not continue.
To the round-robin which was being requested for the approval of increases, King opined that it could not be done that way given the large sums of money to be paid out. Outside of this, the Mayor can call an extraordinary meeting to address the matter, “and my information is that Ms. Carol Sooba (Town Clerk (ag)) is refusing to call the meeting.”
King claimed that the non-approval of the workers money is a consequence of other issues the Council is facing.
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