Unions frustrated in 2003
-TUC General Secretary
Stabroek News
January 1, 2004

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Labour relations in 2003 were characterised by a succession of frustrations and failures.

This is according to General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress Lincoln Lewis who says the single bright spark in an otherwise frustrating year had been the establishment of the Public Service Commiss-ion.

Lewis, who in his New Year's message describes 2003 as a difficult and frustrating year, says the root of the existing industrial relations crisis is the government's contempt for established labour practices.

"Last year, for the third consecutive year, it chose to sweep aside established negotiating procedures and to impose meagre and arbitrary wage increases for public servants."

In other cases, he says, the government simply turned a blind eye to collective labour agreements and imposed their own arbitrary measures.

Because of these recurring developments, Lewis says the trade union movement finds it difficult to engage the administration on the basis of trust and goodwill.

"Personally, I have arrived at the conclusion that there appears to exist in Guyana an unofficial but clear policy that good, honest citizens, teachers, public servants, miners, media workers and workers in the commercial sector will forever remain trapped below the poverty line.

Wealth and riches, it appears will be the exclusive purview of those who immerse themselves in corruption and rascality", Lewis said.

He noted that the TUC had just recently refused the government's request to sign the social contract.

"How, I asked myself, could the government, after trampling on every conceivable industrial relations principle, have the gumption to ask us to embrace a social contract? For us to have gone along with this charade would have meant a betrayal of principle ... The trade union movement will not be part of that charade, the TUC General Sec-retary declared.

Lewis adverted to the endless political wrangling, violent crime, economic mis-management and corruption, adding that the way forward has to begin with a recognition on the part of the government that it cannot govern the country by edict.

Saying that the movement had its own internal difficulties, Lewis said the time had come to rid the movement of political baggage.

"Party politics has blighted our movement over the years. Those responsible for this blight must remove it. We cannot take the movement forward unless we remove this burden", he added.