GTUC should be managed by technocrat, not union leader
-Carvil Duncan By Oscar P. Clarke
Stabroek News
March 9, 2004

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President of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) Carvil Duncan is recommending that there should be a clear separation of functions in the organisation with its day-to-day management being undertaken by a technocrat as opposed to a union leader.

This restructuring of the GTUC, according to Duncan, is a necessary pre-requisite if unity is to be achieved among affiliates.

Duncan who is also General Secretary of the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) is one of several union leaders from the GTUC identified to work towards securing the return of several affiliates to the fold.

The GTUC president, in a recent interview with Stabroek News, also argued that the body should take on the structure of an international organisation where the union's executive council is separate from its administrative arm. A reputable technocrat who will run its day-to-day operations as well as implement policy set by the executive council should head the body's secretariat, Duncan said.

He sees several benefits in having an independent administrative body, such as a better relationship between the movement, the public, other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and government.

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) are three affiliates outside the umbrella body.

While GAWU and NAACIE left the umbrella body because of differences with the current administration, the GPSU opted to withdraw due to issues surrounding its inability to pay affiliation dues as a result of reduced income.

GAWU's General Secretary Seepaul Narine told Stabroek News recently that there has been no change with respect to the concerns which his union had outlined as influencing the decision to withdraw from the GTUC.

Narine further noted the absence of any recent discussion regarding the issue, apart from that initiated by Duncan which took place sometime early last year and out of which nothing significant emerged.

All our concerns including democracy within the body, its framework, rules, issues of proportional representation and its functioning and operations are still of concern to us and have not been addressed, Narine said.

Meanwhile, Duncan posited that trade unionists should only be involved at the level of the body's Executive Council in any reconstituted GTUC. At this level they will shape policy for use by the administration in the functioning of the body.

But while Duncan does not view the body as being completely fragmented, he noted that what has been happening is that some in the movement seem set on doing everything possible to torpedo any thought of reconciliation. He said this perception has been drawn from the fact that GAWU is a product of a political organisation as opposed to that of workers' struggle. Therefore its party which happens to be the governing party currently influences its behaviour, Duncan declared.

He further said that the affiliates outside of the umbrella body have indicated their willingness to come on board but some in the TUC are not doing things to make it happen. Duncan said he went to the extent of getting the executive to agree to a waiver of all outstanding dues up to the time those affiliates outside the body return but this has been to no avail.

He also initiated plans to have serious concerns which the affiliates may have with the umbrella body and to a lesser extent the Critchlow Labour College (CLC) ironed out once they had returned to the fold.

If they need amendments to the body's constitution to facilitate some of the things they would like to see reflected in the organisation, then it may be necessary to make them, Duncan said. All these overtures have however failed to make any impact in encouraging the affiliates to return to the fold and it might be other issues preventing this, the veteran union leader said.

Moreover, Duncan thinks that since it appears there is no short-term solution to the issue of unity, the TUC is more than likely heading down the road of fragmentation. He also hinted at the possibility of other unions including his own opting to leave the umbrella body as it is serving no useful purpose and seems stagnated.

"We are paying hefty affiliation fees somewhere in the region of a half a million dollars and there is nothing to gain from the association," Duncan lamented.

He sees the option of restructuring the body as a possible remedy for rescuing the ailing movement and securing its survival, thereby attracting the respect of all members, organisations and even the government.

The umbrella body which currently has 18 affiliates is financed mainly through their dues which sources say can barely afford to keep its administration running for three months.

Government normally gives it a yearly subvention but has recently linked its continued support to the body's ability to forge unity which has thus far eluded the organisation.