President Jagdeo meets GLU members
-promises to address several problems
Stabroek News
May 12, 2004

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President Bharrat Jagdeo sat down at a half-an-hour meeting with some members of the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) and its president Stanley Troyer on Monday evening and while listening to a number of concerns promised various interventions to bring relief.

Accompanying President Jagdeo were Minister of the Public Service, Dr Jennifer Westford; Minister of Public Works, Anthony Xavier; and Minister of Housing and Water, Shaik Baksh, as well as Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, Jennifer Webster.

Jagdeo's meeting which was held at the GLU's headquarters, Camp Street, follows his promise to union members when he had joined their May Day celebrations that he would return and address key concerns.

But the meeting was poorly attended because General Secretary of the union, Carvil Duncan reportedly had requested that the meeting be postponed as he had to travel overseas, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.

GINA said union president Troyer explained that he just managed to summon a few workers since the Head-of-State was unable to keep a later appointment with the union. However, Jagdeo expressed his disappointment that he was not able to meet all the workers as he had indicated on Labour Day.

According to GINA, the union's president raised several contentions which the GLU has with the Guyana Defence Force for its members' entitlement to benefits, termination and insufficient records on employees' history. Jagdeo assured that government will follow the individual cases with the GDF.

And commenting on grievances that employees of private firms raised, the President noted that government could not intervene in view of the exclusive arrangements between the workers and the companies, but he pointed out that the unions have to represent the workers. Jagdeo also advised that the parties could seek redress through the Ministry of Labour.

However, workers of Barama Company Limited implored the Head-of-State to intervene on their behalf to address a number of concerns, including low wages and the need for a housing programme.

According to the workers, GINA reported, their wages are below the minimum wage paid to public servants by government, which is about $22,000. The GLU president noted that the union had requested conciliation to resolve the matter, since the company did not respond favourably to requests from workers for increases.

According to GINA, President Jagdeo was appalled at the low wages being paid to the shift workers who earn below $100 per hour in overtime, and he promised to raise the issue with Barama when he meets the company's representatives later this month to discuss an expansion plan.

Meanwhile, on the issue of housing, the workers said that Barama had promised to build houses costing in the vicinity of $2.4M and $2.8M, with a monthly installment of $20,000, but they found that beyond their means.

The President urged them to apply through the Ministry of Housing for land and through the Bank for loans to build, with a $12,000 repayment per month. Alterna- tively, he suggested, the Ministry of Housing could work out a programme with Barama.

However, Minister Baksh noted that government had already offered the company 100 houselots in Parfait Harmonie, but Barama is yet to get back to the ministry with a proposal, GINA stated.

Other workers raised concerns about the 'royal runaround' they receive from the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown when trying to resolve issues or access benefits. Jagdeo observed that the M&CC is not in government's jurisdiction, but he undertook to arrange meetings so that workers can see the Town Clerk.

The workers described the session as "very helpful" as it gave them a chance to seek redress on issues that have been bothering them for some time, GINA added.

They also thanked President Jagdeo for keeping his promise of returning to meet them.

Observers say the meeting between the union and the President was significant as the GLU and the government have not always had smooth relations. The GLU's former General President was the late President and PNCR Leader Desmond Hoyte.