President urges labour movement unity
May 1, 2004
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has implored the local labour movement to work towards its unification since this can only rebound to the benefit of the working class as a whole.
In his May Day message, the President lamented the fact that despite the efforts of the leaders of the trade union movement over the years, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) cannot find common ground for reuniting.
In this regard, he urged that as they march and celebrate May Day today, labour leaders must reflect over this division and formulate plans which will create the type of atmosphere that can bring the two bodies into a united whole.
He alluded to the fact that May Day is an occasion where workers and their trade unions rally, demonstrate and hold the banners of the working class aloft.
It is also an occasion when resolutions on matters of concern to workers are passed and when a reflection is made on benefits and conditions which are accrued to workers, he said.
In assessing their working conditions, Mr. Jagdeo said workers must reflect on past benefits and measure them against what currently exists.
“They must also take into consideration international as well as national economic realities (and) my administration is indeed happy with our conscientious efforts at consistently working to improve the lot of the Guyanese workers,” he posited.
“Those in the fields and the factories and in the offices, from the productive to the service sectors, have benefitted not only in terms of improvement in real wages over these years, but have been given legislative and other employment protection at their places of work,” he asserted.
“We can proudly boast of having perhaps the most comprehensive and modern Occupational Health and Safety Legislation in the Caribbean,” the Guyanese Head-of-State contended.
He recalled that in the past workers were ruthlessly dismissed, retrenched or redeployed with no benefits paid to them for their years of service.
“Today we have a Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act which offers protection as well as setting significant benefits to workers who are retrenched or otherwise disengaged from their employment outside of dismissal for cause,” he said, adding that this legislation resulted in benefits paid to hundreds of workers.
“For over half a century workers were clamouring for legislation to guarantee them the right to belong to a trade union of their choosing - that legislation has become a reality again through the PPP/Civic administration and this has allowed for workers in several sectors to be granted union recognition without the rancour or acrimony associated with this type of trade union activity,” President Jagdeo stated.
He also noted that in the past workers have been dismissed in their efforts to secure union recognition. “Today it is illegal to dismiss a worker based on his/her request or participation in an exercise for union recognition,” he said.
The President also made reference to legislation that in place which offers protection to workers to prevent them from being discriminated against.
According to him, this along with other legislative mechanisms have given tremendous protection to workers.
“The Government has also ratified leading conventions of the ILO which also set minimum standards under which workers are required to work,” he said.
“We are proud that over the years we have demonstrated our commitment to internationally recognised standards as we charter a better course for our workers (and) as we seek to continue to improve the lot of our workers, we face numerous challenges,” he contended.
The President further pointed out that the global conditions pose severe challenges to workers in developed countries much less to developing countries like ours. He said, too, that in some developed countries workers have to agree to wage cuts, improvement in productivity and flexible working hours in order to keep their jobs secure.
“We in Guyana never had to face the prospect of a wage cut and government through prudent management of the economy was able to create a stable climate where job opportunities were hardly threatened,” he boasted.
He said, too, that all these efforts could be eroded if as workers, employers and government, we do not seek to work in harmony.
“No individual grouping could stand by itself and that is the reason why the government over the years placed emphasis on the tripartite system…it is because of the involvement of all our social partners that we could have accomplished so much especially in the field of labour legislation,” he stated.
“We want to continue to work with all interest groups in this country and as we seek to promote dialogue, we ask some of our colleagues, especially those in the trade union movement, to engage us as friends of the workers, as a caring government and as a government committed to work for the constant improvement of the lot of workers,” he said.
“Once again a happy and joyous May Day 2004 to all,” the President added.