Lewis calls on govt to implement ILO conventions
Stabroek News
April 30, 2002

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Government needs to put the necessary staff in place to activate and implement the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) conventions since mere ratification is inadequate, General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) Lincoln Lewis has stated.

Addressing the gathering at a wreath-laying ceremony on Sunday to launch Critchlow Week at Parliament Buildings, Lewis said that government functionaries were quick to point out how many ILO conventions were ratified by the administration but he said this was only the beginning.

"Today, labour chooses to raise this issue and say to the government that the passing of conventions and laws are inadequate since the ministries and departments need the staff to make the laws work. For a law is dead unless activated by the people," Lewis said.

The GTUC general secretary said the politicking by President Bharrat Jagdeo of asking the trade union movement to be more accountable on every instance that the movement questioned the administration's excesses, violated the same conventions ratified by government.

He stated that trade unions by law are compelled to submit their books to be audited by the Auditor General and to send annual returns to the registrar of trade unions. He pointed out that the labour movement accounts only to the members of the unions and no-one else for "that's the law and the principle."

Lewis stated that the President has to account to the citizens of the country and listed several issues for the head of state to explain: the deal with Viceroy Shipping for the basin in the Berbice River; the floating away of the Charity wharf; all the companies which have been given tax-free holidays; the Guyana Power and Light deal and the increases the citizens are asked to pay; the workers of Guyana are asked to pay more in personal income tax than all of the companies in the country combined plus the takings of the Customs and Excise Department.

Lewis recalled that the present government campaigned from a labour platform at every elections and said it was time the people took note of its commitment to labour.

Lewis, who is also president of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), said he observed the absence of a Guyana delegation at the Caribbean Labour Ministers Meeting in Barbados last week. "An important conference like this where heads came together to discuss issues that affect labour in the region, our government thought it fit not to attend. It was the only country absent," he said.

The GTUC general secretary recalled that Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow hosted the first meeting of Caribbean labour leaders where the issues of collaboration and integration were discussed.

Lewis described Critchlow as the man who contributed the most towards the citizens of the country.

He said Critchlow established the platform on rent restriction ordinance, ending of night work in bakeries, eight-hour work days, and adult suffrage. "It was Critchlow who paved the way and made it possible for a Jagan and a Burnham. It was Critchlow who made it possible for you and me to vote in determining our destiny," he said.

Lewis called on the workers to let the struggle continue if they were not comfortable with the state of affairs in the country.