Memorandum signed; meeting to be held shortly
Stabroek News
May 5, 2002

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The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) will meet breakaway unions Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and National Association of Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) soon, in an effort to end the impasse.

GTUC President, Carvil Duncan, told Stabroek News that a memorandum of understanding had been signed with the breakaway unions.

According to him, based upon this development a special GTUC conference was to have been held to deal with the issues, which caused the split.

He said the destruction by fire of GAWU headquarters in Regent Street in the aftermath of the 2001 general elections resulted in the loss of key documents relating to the discussions. This caused the conference to be put off, he said.

A committee was established by the GTUC to deal specifically with the impasse. The committee comprised Duncan, GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis, and President of the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union, Roy Hughes, who is also on the GTUC executive.

Several meetings were held with GAWU and NAACIE since it was formed but not for this year.

Duncan said he was working towards having a meeting with the unions very soon, as early as this week.

"We've reached the stage where nearly all the issues have been agreed upon," He said.

Duncan said an agreement was reached where the amendment of the GTUC rules would be examined but he stated this meant that the unions would have to return to the fold of the GTUC for this to be done.

And the paper unions as claimed by GAWU no longer existed, he said. He said the charge by GAWU that the system used to allot delegates to the GTUC biennial conference disfranchised the union, being the largest one in Guyana, meant an amendment to the rules.

Duncan stated that the situation with GAWU was different to that with NAACIE. "I believe NAACIE would rejoin GTUC once their concerns are addressed. But with GAWU you have to look at its history," he remarked.

He explained there were two types of trade unions-one which is born out of fighting for workers rights and one formed by a political party. He described GAWU as the latter.

"GAWU is subjected to the views of the PPP/Civic. Most of the executive of GAWU are members of the party," he stated. "Unless the party sees it fit to return to the GTUC then that's the only way GAWU would come back."

Duncan was of the view that no matter how the GTUC "stretched out our arm" to accommodate GAWU, the union would have to abide by the dictates of the PPP/C.

It was also the GTUC president's opinion that while the leaders of the unions were still opposed to rejoining the GTUC the workers felt otherwise because they wanted to see unity in the trades union movement.

"It is in GAWU's interest to come back to the GTUC. It would strengthen their standing on the labour scene," he said.

He pointed out that if the unions were back in the GTUC they would be better able to influence decisions made.

President of GAWU, Komal Chand, stated there had been no GTUC/GAWU/ NAACIE meeting for over a year.

He said up to then there was some understanding on how to approach the issues to be resolved.

He asserted there needed to be a drawing up of the matters to be dealt with and some "give and take" on both sides.

"What is needed is that both sides need to find the time to address the issues. It seems only when labour matters come to the fore or when there is May Day then there is talk about the problems," he stated.

Chand said Duncan was in touch with him and they have agreed to meet at the earliest opportunity.

The GAWU president declared that the labour movement was not separated from politics but cautioned that the unions should not get involved in day-to-day politics.

He pointed out that in the Caribbean most of the political parties came out of trade unions and also alluded to the Labour Party of England.

He noted that the Guyana Labour Union, of which Duncan is general secretary, has as its president general Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte.

"The GTUC needs to realise that it has affiliates with different backgrounds and it should not get into the politics of a few affiliates," Chand said.