GTUC appeals for unity in labour movement By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
May 2, 2002

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EXECUTIVES of the umbrella trade union body, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), yesterday painted a grim picture of Guyana, and heavily criticised the Government when they addressed a scattered audience at the National Park in observance of May Day.

While the GTUC welcomed the participation of the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) in the traditional Labour Day parade, and called for unity in the trade union movement, the GTUC President Mr. Carvil Duncan said that GAWU may not have another chance to share the platform as their leaders were invited to do once more this year.

Duncan later announced that a Committee has been set up with the purpose of assisting the GTUC in sorting out its differences with GAWU and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE). Both unions have severed their relationships with the umbrella body.
GAWU registered the highest number of participants in its contingent in the May Day Parade through the streets of Georgetown, but did not join the GTUC rally at the National Park.

General Secretary of the GTUC, Mr. Lincoln Lewis, told the gathering at the National Park that President Bharrat Jagdeo had been invited to the rally. But, Lewis said, the Office of the President sent the GTUC, the regrets of the Head of State.

However, Lewis ‘piggy-backed’ on a “Capitol News” report, and asked the gathering if the report was true: “Isn’t the Head of State’s action confirming the opinion that his Government fuels the seeds of division in the movement?”
While the GTUC sought to distance itself from politics, when Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte arrived at the National Park, Chairman of the proceedings Mr. Norris Witter hinted enthusiastically that someone had said, “The President has arrived”. This remark brought loud cheers from the half-empty stands of the National Park.

Lewis lamented that PAYE employees are paying more income tax than all the companies combined.

In year 2001, he said, the companies paid $7.5 billion, while PAYE revenue was $7.8 billion. Lewis said it was projected that for 2002, companies will pay $7.9 billion in taxes, while PAYE will account for $8.2 billion.
The TUC wants the Government to urgently address the tax threshold to reflect 1.5 times the pay in the public service.

Lewis criticised the high electricity charges and also slammed the rise of water rates.

“While we welcome the concessions given to the rice farmers, the sugar industry and investors, we ask the question, ‘Why isn’t the same generosity extended to the workers?’ ” Lewis stated.

Guest speaker at the GTUC rally was Guyanese Mr. George DePeana, General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL). He emphasised that unity of the labour movement is critical at this time, with the advent of globalisation, the coming into being of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Mr DePeana called on the trade union movement in Guyana to formulate strategies to deal with HIV/AIDS in the workplace. He pointed out that the fact that someone was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS should not interfere with his/her democratic right for employment.

Mr. Duncan said the Congress has a responsibility to protect the interests of workers and to advance those interests, and if that requires criticising the Government, then the GTUC had no apologies for doing so.