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The GTUC General Secretary, Mr. Lincoln Lewis during his address yesterday at Labour Day Rally, which was held at the Critchlow Labour College, Woolford Avenue urged trade union members and their leaders to rally in support of the cause.
“This issue is about bread and butter. The blatant violation for the principles of free collective bargaining by the government must be seen as the beginning as a process leading to dictatorship and it must be resisted with the full strength of the entire labour movement”, Lewis said.
The GPSU and the GTU on the question of inclusive salary negotiations with the Government of Guyana must be of concern to the entire Labour Movement, he pointed out.
Lewis emphasised that for a government or an employer to seek to impose a settlement without the expressed agreement of the other party must be seen as a departure from the Labour conventions.
“Today we must look to the Government of Guyana to honour what they are asked to uphold. We need to request of them as a government, that they need to set a better example, which respects workers rights, respect Trade Union rights and more so remove the level of transgression that is currently taking place”.
He said, as he listened to the utterances from workers, public officials and those comments from the media, he concluded that many persons do not read enough, or seem to forget the content of his General Secretary’s Report of September 2001, which expressed the greatest concern on the state of the Guyana Trades Union Congress.
“We continue to endure the political baggage and the arrogance of those who regard the Guyana Trade Union Congress as no more than a tool to be employed at their convenience”.
Lewis said the trade union movement must continue to move in the direction of a separate entity and define its relationship with politicians and political parties based on an agenda of principle.
There was a notable decline in the number of persons coming out to support the Labour Day march. This year’s march went through several streets of Georgetown before assembling at the Critchlow Labour College where union members and other supporters were addressed.
Vice-President of the GTUC Mr. Norris Wither said there could be a multiplicity of reasons for the marked decline in attendance at the Labour Day rally this year.
One of the reasons he gave was the stark social and economic conditions under which, Guyanese are forced to survive.
“What we have been witnessing over time in Guyana is an erosion of the rights of workers, particularly workers who are engaged in employment at the governmental level”, said Mr. Witter.
He pointed out that the current teachers issue is one example, where the government has been violating certain basic principles as it related to free collective bargaining. He added that the teachers’ struggle primarily has to do with the restoration of free collective bargaining.
“The rights to free collective bargaining and the rights to organize is enshrined in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 78 to 98 which were ratified by the governments of Guyana whether past or present”.
He said, past or present governments have embraced those conventions and it is expected that they would conform to them.
Witter explained that those violations strike at the root of the Trade Union survival.