Legal advice to be obtained in city, unions pay hike row

City Council Round-Up
By Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
October 1, 2001

Town Clerk Beulah Williams is to seek legal advice on what approach the City Council should take in the deadlock between the municipality and the two unions representing its workers.

At the last statutory meeting of the council, the impasse between the unions and the workers was thoroughly discussed with inputs from Mayor Hamilton Green, the leader of the People's National Congress/R faction, Oscar Clarke and the leader of the People's Progressive Party/C faction, Fitzgerald Agard who is a trade unionist.

It is more than a month now since the workers staged a two-day strike demanding increased wages and salaries of 40%. The council said it could only offer 5%. In the interim, the government appointed an arbitrator, who was a former appeal court judge. But the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) and the Guyana Local Government Officers Union (GLGOU) have refused to accept, arguing that they want an arbitration tribunal which would include the government's nominee with two others whose names have been made public by the unions.

Declaring that he wants to get on with the matter, the 'chief citizen' in response to a charge that the government acted hastily in its appointment, said the minister of local government has the authority to appoint an arbitrator in such circumstances without consulting either the council or the unions.

A spokesman for the GLGOU told this column that it has been common industrial relations practice since 1975 that the parties in a dispute should meet and decide on a memorandum of understanding on the terms of reference of the arbitrator.

It was pointed out that the local government minister was informed by letter that he consider appointing a three- member tribunal and it was noted that over the years the views of the unions have always been given due consideration.

The mayor had earlier informed the council that only he and his team turned up for the first meeting with the government-appointed arbitrator.

Christmas shopping

The pavement vendors demanding their right to earn a living have already begun to establish themselves in the downtown area of Water Street, bolstered by the breakdown in negotiations between the government - with President Bharrat Jagdeo playing the lead role - and Toolsie Persaud Limited over the relocation of vendors on vacant land on Water and Robb streets.

While both parties use the media to score points and explain their positions, the vendors are exploiting the situation and some businesses are crying foul.

One of the big department stores on Water Street is considering an approach to the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce whose President is city businessman Eddie Boyer. The department store is contending that if nothing is done to control vending outside its premises it could suffer a similar fate to that of JP Santos Ltd which was forced to close its doors because of the takeover of the pavement on Water Street.

The JP Santos situation had reached the stage where the height of the stalls on Water Street blocked the view of the company from the street, making it impossible to enter or look at the company's showcases with displays of its wares.

In order to arrest what is happening and will occur as the Christmas season approaches this column would like to make this suggestion.

Here goes.... The business community not only those on Water Street but all over the city should get together immediately with City Hall and work out a plan to deal with what is obviously a growing threat to people who operate legitimate businesses in the city.

The first thing to be done is the setting up of a small committee comprising at least two city councillors... let me name them... the GGG's Pat Chase- Green and former PNC mayor Ranwell Jordan... he has had first-hand dealings with the vendors on Water Street. The other members would come from the business community.

This community must be tasked with introducing measures which would protect businesses and businessmen from the encroaching vendors while at the same time making provision for the pavement sellers to conduct business within a prescribed area.

The business community must be prepared to give support in manpower and money to the city council so that the constabulary would be beefed up, a point made by the mayor at last Monday's sitting. This is the time for bankers, the chamber of commerce and the Private Sector Commission as well as the Police to play a more active role in "taking back the city of George-town..." The support of every citizen who believes in order and the rule of law will be behind such efforts... Now go for it.....


The constabulary continues to monitor the vegetable and fruit vendors on Bourda Street with good results... keep up the excellent work... but such bouquets cannot be given to the Town Clerk who some weeks ago promised to do something positive about the parking of vehicles on Robb Street between the Bourda market and the Bourda Green. Not forgetting the green and yellow plantain sellers on the northern side of the market on Robb Street.

Question... why is the fruit vendor who until recently illegally occupied space at the corner of East and Church streets being allowed to do business from his truck parked on the Merriman Mall on Sunday mornings?... and why are the music boxes still being allowed to disturb the peace of this city including many residential areas?... Statement of the week... the cemetery is a jungle... says GGG councillor Harold Kissoon.

A new face

The PPP/C has a new councillor. She is Miss Esme Ishmael who took her seat round the horseshoe table last Monday... and was welcomed by Mayor Green.

She has been a member of the ruling party for a number of years and her mother has been a long-standing activist and PPP/C member of parliament. Miss Ishmael replaces Mr Carl Rogers who had been absent from council meetings for several months.