As per Title 5 of the Guyana Constitution the Leader of the Opposition falls under the Executive branch of government. The Executive is responsible for day-to-day management of the administration of the state. The role of the Opposition under our system of government therefore is not only to oppose, or seek to dispose of government, but also to propose and collaborate with government in advancing the nation and citizens’ welfare. This should lay to rest the question by GAWU’s General Secretary Seepaul Narine in his letter, “What is the purpose of Government if Mr. Jagdeo must intervene?” (KN 24th Jan 2020). Jagdeo is being paid to work, not twiddle his thumbs, and he has not worked for the sugar workers.
My position is very clear about the fundamentals of good governance, regardless of who holds office. Citizens must hold elected representatives’ feet to the fire to ensure they act in our best interest. But make no mistake, no society functions best or the people’s best interest served when the Opposition fails to discharge its duty. Had Jagdeo used his political privilege and muscle in joining sugar workers in seeking to hold the coalition government to account for safeguarding their welfare the situation could have been better or at least history would have recorded he tried.
Every worker who does not earn wages/salary that can provide a decent living is cause for concern to me as a citizen and trade unionist given the concomitant impact on standard of living, poverty and other social ills. In the case of sugar where ministers of government are on record saying these workers should be paid more, and specifically the one who controls the nation’s purse, Winston Jordan “stressed that the union must sit with management to come up with a deal for satisfactory pay packages,” it should not have been ignored (SN-Dec 6, 2019: Granger, Jagdeo differ on way ahead for sugar).
Jagdeo had ample opportunity to work with GAWU and GuySuCo to realise the parties coming to the negotiation table. But he did not because there resides no interest in doing so, having made a calculated political decision the workers’ suffering could serve his interest more. It is not the Board that is responsible for negotiating, it is the management. It surprises me Seepaul is trying to give this impression to the contrary.
It was GuySuCo’s Chief Industrial Relations Manager Deodat Sukhu, who said, “the cash-strapped corporation does not have the revenue or cash flow to pay workers the requested increase” and the unions were so informed (SN- 9th Dec, 2019- GAWU hopeful of wage hike offer from gov’t). Why isn’t Sukhu being held to account for ignoring an entreaty from Jordan? And why isn’t Jagdeo held to account for not fighting to secure a return to the bargaining table in light of the efforts the union has been making?
That “Mr Jagdeo did weigh in pointing out that some of the bond proceeds could be used to finance a pay rise” is not equivalent to getting the job done. He fully well knows the conditions under which the bond was established wages and salary cannot be paid from it. This brings us right back to Jordan, the person who could have made any payment possible. But Jagdeo did nothing to further the welfare of sugar workers.
I refuse to engage on matters that have no bearing on Jagdeo’s stewardship with regards to the management of sugar, for this is a deliberate ploy to divert. Where it is said the World Bank advised the Skeldon project be pursued, the Bank only advises, it doesn’t direct. There are numerous advice that were not accepted because it was felt they were not good for the country. Skeldon was a decision of Jagdeo. He must take responsibility for a bad project that cost the taxpayers more than US$200M and which Roger Luncheon admitted was a “letdown.” Likewise, his is the responsibility for squandering the EU money intended for diversification. These are irrefutable facts.
This nation was advised a few days ago that 5,340 employees from GuySuCo were sent home during the PPP. It is said during the coalition more than 5,200 were laid off (Demerara Waves, 22nd Jan 2020). This is 10,000 workers too much! The loss of jobs especially when there is limited opportunity for reemployment or retraining is painful to the trade union community. Sugar is in crisis and has to be attended to in frank, honest and open conversations and through deliberative action(s) by the relevant stakeholders. Jagdeo’s management and leadership with regards to this sector, as President and Leader of the Opposition, have contributed to the problem and suffering of these workers. No attempt at spinning can change the hard, cold facts.
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