Engage us as friends of the workers
-President urges trade union colleagues
Stabroek News
May 1, 2004

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President Bharrat Jagdeo has appealed to colleagues in the labour movement to engage his administration "as friends of the workers".

In his message to mark May Day today, the President said that efforts by his government on behalf of workers could be "eroded if as workers, employers and Govern-ment, we do not seek to work in harmony.

No individual grouping could stand by itself." He added that it was because of the involvement of all the social partners that so much was accomplished in the field of labour legislation.

"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 the workers", he said.

Relations between the government and the TUC have been tense due to a variety of reasons. The government has also crossed swords with the Guyana Public Service Union over wages for public servants.

The President also voiced his disappointment that FITUG (the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana) and the GTUC (Guyana Trades Union Congress) still cannot find common ground for reuniting and urged the labour movement to work towards unification for the benefit of the working class.

"I hope that as you march and celebrate, you reflect over this division and formulate plans which will create the type of atmosphere that can bring the two bodies into a united whole," President Jagdeo said

He also noted that his administration is happy with its "conscientious efforts at consistently working to improve the lot of the Guyanese workers."

Jagdeo declared that "those in the fields and the factories and in the offices from the productive to the service sectors have benefited 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."

According to the President, Guyana has perhaps the most comprehensive and modern occupational health and safety legislation in the Caribbean.

In addition, he noted, the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act offers protection as well as significant benefits to workers who are retrenched or otherwise disengaged from their employment outside of dismissal for cause.

And through the PPP/C administration, he stated, there is now legislation to guarantee workers the right to belong to a trade union of their choice, as well as to prevent them from being discriminated against.

"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," the President declared, noting that government had ratified leading conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Observing that in some developed countries workers have had to agree to wage cuts, improvement in productivity and flexible working hours in order to secure their jobs, Jagdeo said that workers here have never had to face the prospect of a wage cut and government through prudent management of the economy has created a stable climate where job opportunities were hardly threatened.