No need for separation in umbrella union management
- Joseph By Oscar P. Clarke
Stabroek News
March 30, 2004

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NAACIE President Kenneth Joseph is of the view that there is no need for separation in the management of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) since its structure is clearly spelt out in its constitution.

According to Joseph, the GTUC General Secretary, who is the appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the movement, is supposed to be capable of managing the organisation as mandated by its Executive Council (EXCO).

However, the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) official acknowledged that his union along with others in the labour movement have been plugging continually for a restructuring of the umbrella body. NAACIE is currently outside the GTUC because of several grievances and is now a member of the rival Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).

Joseph's remarks came in response to recent pronouncements by GTUC President Carvil Duncan advocating for a technocrat to head the movement particularly at this time. It was Duncan's view that the post-holder although likely to be a person with a union background should not be an elected member of the EXCO or a leader of an affiliated union.

General Secretary of the GTUC Lincoln Lewis in a subsequent interview had appealed to Duncan to approach the EXCO with his ideas to allow the matter to be deliberated.

Joseph like some other union leaders was of the view that unions in addressing certain issues employ technocrats related to particular areas of speciality.

According to him, anyone heading the umbrella body should be committed to the movement although he acknowledged that persons outside the movement have in the past been employed by trade unions.

But he said the body would have to come to grips with the issue of unity before it embarks on any discussion about technocrats or other functions of the movement.

The NAACIE head feels that the GTUC has capable people to perform in the role of General Secretary should such an eventuality arise.

CCWU General Secretary Grantley Culbard questioned recently on the issue, repeated the view of others in the movement that Duncan should have first taken the issue to the EXCO.

However, he felt some of the issues concerning the GTUC and unity were some of the very pillars on which he had based his challenge for the presidency at the last delegates' conference when he was out-voted.

According to Culbard, most of the things he had warned about then are now slowly coming to pass. The GTUC, he said, has serious problems which it has been ignoring, including having some of the biggest unions outside its membership.

He cited as one example of the GTUC's lacklustre approach, its failure to acknowledge the one-year death anniversary of its former general-secretary Joseph Pollydore. GAWU, he said, on the other hand remembered and paid homage to him.

He alluded to a number of other issues which he considers not being adequately addressed by the GTUC, including the registering of unions.

Culbard is also of the view that the weakness of the GTUC is allowing employers to feel that they could do anything to workers and get away with it since the body is spineless. He said for the movement to survive, especially in these challenging times, it needs to stick rigidly to its principles.

Meanwhile, according to Joseph several leaders in the movement have been dissatisfied with the posture of the EXCO of the GTUC and for this reason they decided to leave.

NAACIE, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) all withdrew for different reasons and remain outside the GTUC despite efforts from some quarters to forge unity.

In a recent interview with Stabroek News, Joseph expressed the view that a particular group of leaders are hell-bent on controlling the umbrella body regardless of the direction in which it is heading, even down the road to destruction.

This, according to Joseph, might be particularly as a result of the perceived fear of GAWU especially in relation to it acquiring a leadership role in the movement because of its voting power.

GAWU is believed to be the union with the largest number of members, and as such is guaranteed by virtue of voting power the largest number of delegates at the annual delegates' congress and on the EXCO.

According to Joseph, it is his perception that the GTUC has really not been favourable to the cause of the workers but instead has been pandering to political parties.

It is for this reason that some leaders feel that any authority given to GAWU to guide the functioning of the GTUC would lead to a softening of the body's posture toward the government and a more pro-administration stance, the NAACIE head said. All of this is going on without the interest of the workers being taken into consideration, he said.

Joseph did acknowledge that some of the differences with the current administration have been in existence since the early '70s when the movement was headed by Pollydore. Nevertheless, NAACIE is prepared to return to the GTUC immediately without any further additions or demands to its position agreed to in the document of January 17, 2001.

"We can do so tomorrow if the TUC would only respect the position adopted in the January 2001 agreement," the NAACIE head said.

According to Joseph, NAACIE is not selfish and is not advocating the withdrawal of affiliates from the GTUC but rather wants to see attention being paid to the interests of workers.

It is for this reason that NAACIE along with other unions, including GAWU and the CCWU, decided to reactivate FITUG.