Union group tells UK retailer Precision violating workers' rights
Company denies charge

Stabroek News
May 10, 2003

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The International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), has contacted a United Kingdom department store about what it says are violations by Precision Woodworking Limited (PWL) of the internationally recognised right of freedom of association.

Precision Woodworking has denied the charges by the union grouping.

A press release from Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the Brussels-based ITGLWF stated that the John Lewis Partnership (JLP), a UK department store, is one of the major clients of PWL, which supplies garden furniture. JLP has been asked by the federation to intervene to ensure that trade union rights are respected at its supplier in Guyana.

Kearney has warned the UK retailer that the Guyana furniture manufacturer's stance could taint its reputation, and has urged JLP to use its considerable influence as Precision's major customer to reinstate fired workers and for PWL to deal with the union in good faith.

According to the ITGLWF, the General Workers' Union (GWU), which is an ITGLWF affiliate, represents 78 of the 138 workers at Precision, well over 40% of the membership threshold at which employers are required by law to recognise a trade union at the workplace. But in spite of some initial meetings at the workplace to deal with some of the workers' grievances, the company then refused to recognise the union and failed to show up at meetings convened by the Ministry of Labour, says the federation.

Subsequent to a series of protests beginning on February 3, Precision dismissed a number of workers, some for serious misconduct and one for allegations of threatening and abusive language. The February 3 protest was directed at the Ministry of Labour because of what the union says is the time it took for the union recognition application to be processed by the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TURCB).

Ronald Bulkan, Precision's Managing Director, in an invited comment, told Stabroek News that his company had done nothing wrong in firing the workers. He said that only the Ministry of Labour could pronounce on breaches of labour regulations, if indeed any existed.

Bulkan had earlier told Stabroek News that the union had not formally made an application for representation of the company's workers.

When contacted for a comment, Norris Witter, President of the General Workers' Union (GWU), said that on request of the ITGLWF, his union had prepared a report of the occurrences at Precision which was sent to the overseas union body. The ITGLWF, Witter said, based their decisions on the findings in the report.

He added that he did not wish to take the matter further, stating that he hoped that Precision Woodworking could make restitution by allowing the workers to be unionised if they so desired.

Witter had been accused of threatening to compromise the company with its overseas customers.

The ITGWLF is a global union federation with 220 affiliated organisations in 110 countries with a combined membership of 10 million workers.

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