Trade Union Recognition Board 'sand dancing'
- FITUG affiliates say
Stabroek News
December 23, 2003

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Three unions are threaten- ing industrial action if outstanding matters before the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TUR&CB) are not resolved.

The Clerical and Com-mercial Workers Union (CCWU), the Guyana Agri-cultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) are part of the reconstituted Federation of Indepen-dent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).

Members of these unions yesterday picketed the new Church Street offices of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) whose Chairman, Prem Persaud, is also the Chairman of the TUR&CB.

The leaders of the three unions each expressed frustration at the length of time their issues had been pending.

Efforts to reach Persaud yesterday proved futile and the board's Secretary Mohamed Akeel, who is also the chief labour officer, referred all queries to Persaud.

A joint press statement said workers at the National Parks Commission (NPC), Guyana Water Inc (GWI) and the senior staff of Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) were still to be allowed to pick a union of their choice.

In the case of the NPC, GAWU said the workers had been trying since May 7, 1996, to have that union as their bargaining agent. According to the union, the matter was before the courts because the incumbent Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers (UAAW) had served an injunction on the Minister of Labour in November 1997 for conducting a poll.

However, at the insistence of the certification board, the union's lawyer Senior Counsel Ashton Chase withdrew GAWU's court case.

"It is now years that the recognition and certification board has been 'sand dancing' on the fixture of a poll to allow the workers of NPC to decide on the union they wish to represent them," the union claims.

In the case of NAACIE, employees of the newly created GWI, an amalgamation of the Guyana Sewerage and Water Commissioners (GS&WC) and the Guyana Water Authority (GUYWA), are actively campaigning for a single union to represent them.

A memorandum of agreement was subsequently signed by the contesting three unions and the management and countersigned by the Ministry of Labour/secretary of TUR&CB to allow the poll to take place on September 17, 2003, NAACIE further claimed.

"We are informed that Mr Lincoln Lewis, General Sec-retary of the GTUC at a meeting of the TUR&CB held on August 19, 2003, made certain allegations and statements.

After deliberating on Lewis's contributions to the meeting the board instructed that the poll be suspended, according to a letter dated September 3, 2003 to GWI from the secretary of the TUR&CB," the NAACIE statement said.

Consequently, NAACIE is asking what were the allegations and statements made by Lewis that took precedence over an agreement between the parties involved and in keeping with the Trade Union Act of Guyana?

"NAACIE views the decision as a blatant interference of the rights of workers at the GWI and Guyana as a whole by the GS of the GTUC, and calls on the board to rescind its decision and allow the poll to be held."

The CCWU has been trying since February 1996 to gain recognition to represent senior staff at GT&T.

According to the CCWU, the matter, which eventually engaged the attention of the TUR&CB when it came into being following the passing of the Trade Union Recognition Act in 1997, is still to be determined after six years.

"As late as January 2003, arrangements were made by the TUR&CB to hold a poll to determine the issue. To date, the poll has not taken place and no good reason has been given by the TUR&CB," the CCWU said.

The other members of the TUR&CB are employers' representatives June Ram-sammy, David Yankana and Jairam Petam; union rep-rersentatives Carvil Duncan, Seelo Baichan and Andrew Garnette and Lincoln Lewis as an alternate.