Guyana: Labour Review

Submitted by Guyana Trades Union Congress

In 2014 the society continues to be plagued by poor governance, a hallmark of successive PPP administrations. The absence of a comprehensive Job Creation Policy, anchored in a National Development Plan that takes into consideration population growth and workplace development, continues be a feature of the government. Persons having completed studies are having difficulties securing gainful employment consistent with ILO Core Labour Standards which the Government of Guyana has embraced.

The industrial relations climate continues to be troubling. Collective Bargaining for some sectors of workers is treated with contempt by employers, with the major violator being the government. For the 12th year the government refuses to engage in good faith negotiations with unions in the public service. The GPSU is the largest union in the public service and also finds itself undermined by contract workers. Whilst the intent may have been to break the back of the union workers are compromised for even though they may receive higher wages they lose benefits, safety and security of organised labour and place themselves at the mercies of an exploitative regime. This here is a continued effort of government undermining collective labour.

For the 5th year workers at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) are being denied the right to representation by the legally recognised union, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU). This violation is aided and abetted by the Minister of Labour Nanda Gopaul, with his refusal to honour the government’s commitment to the court in July 2012 to reissue letters for the commencement of arbitration between the union and company. Denial of bauxite workers is tantamount to affecting the communities of Region 10 which have largely been sustained by bauxite.

The stated-owned Linden Electricity Incorporated (LEI) where the GB&GWU is the legitimate bargaining agent, for the past five years management has refused to negotiate with the union. In the case of BCGI, Mohamed Akeel, former Chief Labour Officer is its Industrial Relations Advisor. Carvil Duncan, General Secretary of GLU, Chairman FITUG and PSC, is the Chairman of LEI Board of Director. Duncan and Akeel by their actions continue to prove that they have assumed the role of riding shotgun for employers to trample workers and violate the laws. These men enjoy the favours of the PPP government and are rewarded for undermining workers’ rights.

Our industrial climate is such where some Guyanese are denied every right under the Laws with the Government not only being a major player but also a protector of foreign businesses engaging in these malpractices. Patriotism and nationhood are thrown through the window as the nation continues to witness trade unionists, politicians, lawyers and industrial relations consultants engage in an orgy of transgressing rights and violating laws in return for money. Ruthlessness has wormed itself into professional sectors once held in high esteem.

At the Revenue Authority the management refuses to engage the GPSU, a case that has been ongoing for years, in as much as the Trades Union Recognition & Certification Board pronounced in the union’s favour. Another group of state workers Guyana Livestock Development Authority, to date have not had the issue of their pension, gratuity and tenure of service determined.

In sugar the workers continue to be challenged by poor performance in the industry and price in the international markets. Nevertheless the sugar unions continue to make demands for improved wages and benefits. These unions traditionally hyperactive in militancy are less militant than former years, causing widespread perception that workers’ rights are sacrificed on the altar of political allegiance.

GTUC remains concerned about the spate of industrial accidents because accidents don’t happen they are caused. Every worker injured or died as a result of industrial accident is a cost to that worker, the worker’s family and the nation. The GTUC continues to be concerned about the absence of a core/specific department in the Ministry of Labour to address Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) at the workplace. This matter was raised with the ministry at the merging of the Labour and the OSH departments.

For instance, massive construction and sanitation works are being done and workers are put to perform duties without basic safety wear and the ministry has failed to correct this unhealthy situation and risk to workers health and safety. OSH is a discipline and lives are important, together they must be taken seriously. The ministry has no excuse in securing the relevant skills and qualified personnel in this area of much needed performance.

2014 has been a year where the workers-past, present and potential- continue to catch hell. Many are unemployed, underemployed and the employed are made to feel they are being granted a favour by the employers and not appreciated as the most vital resource in the workplace. These failing conditions are made possible through the government’s refusal to put systems in place to create the enabling environment where the worker is valued as the nation’s premium resource.

The Minster of Labour, a former trade unionist, who would have struggled for better conditions and wages for workers, has today shamelessly strayed from these beliefs, and is now part of a political environment that disregards the value of workers. He functions with apparent ease and comfort under a government that disregards workers’ rights protected in ILO Core Labour Standards. The minister now appears comfortable executing these anti-working class policies that undervalues his legacy as a trade unionist.

The environment of labour continues to see the existence of two trade union federations, namely, FITUG and GTUC, with the former enjoying support from the government. The GTUC continues to be denied an annual State grant from workers/taxpayers’ money, which was taken away during the Jadgeo administration, a position maintained by the Ramotar administration. On the other hand FITUG continues to receive significant assistance, inclusive of their affiliation fees to the international and expenses to conferences paid by the government. The Critchlow Labour College (CLC) continues to be denied workers/taxpayers’ money even as the government offers financial assistance to another institution that engages in trade union education.

Notwithstanding the challenges and setbacks the GTUC and CLC continue to shoulder their responsibility in holding government accountable, fighting for citizens/workers well-being, conducting trade union and workers education, empowering students, workers and union representatives to make a positive difference in society. Most noteworthy being our Training in Capacity Building that saw education in Governance and Youth Development and, the CLC 39th Convocation in December with 185 graduates.

3 thoughts on “Guyana: Labour Review

  1. “The Story You Are About To See Is True. The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Innocent” The opening lines to every single episode of Dragnet from 1951 to 1959

    This blog, with a few name changes, cud be 95% of Caricom member states.

    When you are retired you have a lot of time on your hands to do nothing, when you want and where you want.

    Ole fogeys like me spend it here trying to get smart by osmosis.

    Time allows me to read all sorts of articles, see all sorts of documentaries, read a whole set of books which the ole man could not afford when he was growing up.

    Yet, in the final analysis, it now starts to become clear that all this constancy of themes in inefficient government, ineptitude and corruption would strongly suggest that what Ecclesiastes 1:9 says is so true ” 9 That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.”

    • The whole region is under challenge/siege. Although the US, UK and other economies in the developed world are showing improvement there is always the lag factor AND then there is the average spend of the tourist and the level of subsidy to the tourist industry which comes into play. Of concern to the commodity based economies is the declining oil price AND the Venezuelan economy which is heading South fast and is officially described as being in recession. What this bodes for the petrocaribe countries will not be good.

  2. @ pieceuhderockyeahright January 1, 2015 at 9:46 AM
    “Yet, in the final analysis, it now starts to become clear that all this constancy of themes in inefficient government, ineptitude and corruption would strongly suggest that what Ecclesiastes 1:9 says is so true ” 9 That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.”

    You better believe that, ye old Sage of Metaphysics! (BTW, that’s my favourite quote from that collection of Hebrew writings. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, new in the ‘world’ on Earth under the Sun. What goes around comes around.
    Just as the planet Earth revolves around the Sun and the Sun moves from one part of the galaxy to the other so too do the affairs of puny mankind. We have been here 25,940 years before. Maybe our Mayan friends can help us out here .LOL!!

    Here is another quote (from the same source via the KJV) to bring a bit of levity to the arrival of the Piscean year 2015. Our mutual friend in the ether of metaphysics Bush Tea will find it right up his brass bowl whacker briar patch:
    “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

    Vincent Haynes, we are listening to you!

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