Lewis fires back at NAACIE over workers' poll
Stabroek News
December 27, 2003

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Lincoln Lewis, General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (TUC), on Tuesday said that the TUC had been playing an adjudicative role in a union recognition dispute involving NAACIE contrary to charges by the union.

The TUC head was responding to a claim by the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) that he had made certain allegations at a meeting in August with respect to NAACIE's recognition claim.

NAACIE, along with the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU) and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), have threatened industrial action if outstanding matters before the Trade Union Recognition and Certi-fication Board (TUR&CB) were not resolved.

Employees of the three unions, which form part of the reconstituted Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), picketed the new Church Street offices of the Public Utilities Com-mission (PUC) on Monday. PUC Chairman, Prem Per-saud, is also the Chairman of the TUR&CB, and the leaders of the three unions each expressed frustration at the length of time their issues had been pending.

A NAACIE statement that day said: "We are informed that Mr Lincoln Lewis General Secretary of the GTUC at a meeting of the TUR&CB held on August 19, 2003 made certain allegations and statements. After deliberating on Lewis' contributions to the meeting the board instructed that the poll be suspended, according to letter dated September 3, 2003 to GWI from the secretary of the TUR&CB."

However, Lewis told Stabroek News that the matter was engaging the TUC. According to Lewis, NAACIE had refused to subscribe to the process even after being written to and what that union was deeming an accusation was in fact "a legal issue".

He told Stabroek News that according to the law, the TUC is entitled to adjudicate in instances where there is more than one union representing workers at an entity. So the TUR&CB, after being made aware of what was happening, requested that the TUC adjudicate in the matter of GWI.

According to Lewis, the secretary of the TUR&CB, Chief Labour Officer Mohamed Akeel, had, after the time-frame elapsed, unilaterally issued a call to establish modalities for the poll without the board's approval. Akeel, on Monday, refused to comment on the issue.

Lewis said it was only after his union brought it to the attention of the TUR&CB at a meeting in August, that the board deliberated and agreed with his contention and subsequently decided to hold the matter in abeyance.

According to Lewis, NAACIE, by refusing to submit itself to meaningful dialogue on the issue, could be said to be in breach of the law.

A joint press statement by the FITUG affiliates said workers at the National Parks Commission (NPC), Guyana Water Inc (GWI) and the senior staff of the 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.

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 campaigning for a single union to represent them.

A memorandum of agreement was subsequently signed by the three contesting 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 said.

Consequently NAACIE has asked 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.

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