Regional trades union body to probe alleged rights abuses here
June 20, 2002
A high-level team from the Inter-American Regional Organisation of Workers
(ORIT) will visit Guyana next month on a fact-finding mission, addressing
perceived transgressions of human and trade union rights.
ORIT has written to President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader
Desmond Hoyte informing them of the upcoming visit and its desire to meet
Hoyte and the government to discuss the issues.
ORIT said that apart from the visit, it would brief the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions on the developments. More action includes
addressing the issue of extra-judicial killings in Guyana at the Organisation of
American States, and the addressing of labour rights at the International Labour
Vice-President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Grantley
Culbard, told reporters at a recent press conference that ORIT's team would be
led by its General Secretary Luis Anderson. The visit will commence on July 8
and last about four days.
ORIT would also hold discussions with interest groups with a view to bringing
about dialogue to address the matters, Culbard said.
In its letter to President Jagdeo, ORIT said that while examining the
socio-economic and political developments in the region, its executive council
examined the Guyana situation at its board meeting in Caracas, which ended on
ORIT said statistics had shown that Guyanese workers were expected to carry
excessive tax burdens at a time when the business community was being given
sizeable concessions from custom and excise duties and tax holidays.
The recent termination of the workers' pension fund at the New Guyana
Pharmaceutical Corporation was also addressed. ORIT said evidence revealed
that government, along with the majority shareholder of the company, took the
decision to terminate the fund.
ORIT is aware that government had taken the decision to dispose of its shares
subsequent to the termination of the fund. ORIT stated in the letter, that while
dealing with the rights of collective bargaining it observed that the Guyana Public
Service Union engaged government in 2001 to negotiate for pay increase for its
members. ORIT said it was aware that government refused to accede to the
union's request to have an arbitration tribunal established to resolve the impasse
and, moreover, imposed a five per cent increase on the workers. The
government has since gone to court seeking various rulings in its dispute with the
union over arbitration.
"It is expected that a government needs to establish satisfactory principles and
practices for other employers to follow. This incident falls short of the tenets of
good governance," ORIT stated.
The organisation said the issue of unemployment and underemployment was
addressed within the context of the impending loss of jobs by bauxite workers at
Linden, Kwakwani and Everton. It said reports indicate that while government
was informing that workers' jobs would be made redundant, the corresponding
responsibility of developing a safety net to protect the decline within families and
communities was clearly absent.
ORIT said the current protest by workers and residents from the bauxite
communities outside the residence of Prime Minister Sam Hinds was indicative
of their loss of faith in the administration's capacity to fairly deal with their
problems. "The act by your government of engaging a group of workers from
Bermine on 23 May, 2002 to discuss and arrive at agreements outside their
elected representatives, points to your administration's effort to undermine the
process of freedom of association and the right to free collective bargaining", the
group charged. The government has denied this.