TUC 'unity' committee told to buck up
-asked for report into GAWU, NAACIE suspension
Stabroek News
May 15, 2004

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The Guyana Trades Union Congress' (TUC) Executive Council has instructed the committee set up to deal with the issue of the suspension of the two breakaway unions, GAWU and NAACIE, to get its act together and report back within a month.

This committee is also to deal with the Guyana Public Service Union's (GPSU) inability to meet affiliation fees requirements because of "a withdrawal of their check-off" system by the government. The mandates were given at the council's statutory meeting on May 12.

The convener of the committee is the TUC President Carvil Duncan. Duncan is "to ensure engagement within a month and to report to the Executive Council," General Secretary of the TUC, Lincoln Lewis said at a press conference held in the TUC boardroom on Woolford Avenue yesterday. Duncan and Lewis have recently traded criticisms over how the TUC is run and on other issues.

As for unity, Lewis said the umbrella body has always considered the suspension of membership by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers' Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) during the public sector unions' strike of 1999, as unfortunate and regrettable.

He said two years ago the committee, under Duncan's chairmanship had been mandated to address the issue. Other members of this committee are Vice-President, Grantley Culbard, Vice-President, Charles Sampson, Vice-President Norris Witter; and Executive Council Member, Roy Hughes.

Duncan, Witter and Hughes were not present at the press conference but Sampson said that the committee members were never invited to a meeting.

Sampson said that the division in the movement had nothing to do with the executive of the TUC and everything to do with politics. Though the committee has never met and explored ways of bringing back the two unions into the TUC, Sampson said that the committee discussing the idea and making recommendations would be a waste of time. He said if GAWU and NAACIE were ordered by the PPP/C to go back to the TUC they would return. Once GAWU returns, NAACIE would follow, he said, adding that maybe it would be better if GAWU stayed out.

He said that GAWU is allowing workers' interests to be subordinated to that of the party in government. He said that apart from TUC matters they all meet as friends for a drink but political loyalty is the divisive factor. "Let the government change today. GAWU will go back to the TUC."

Principal Assistant Secre-tary Andrew Garnette said it was unfortunate that the committee had not met but the press conference was not called to apportion blame. Asked why Duncan was asked to continue to chair the committee when it had not met for the past two years, Garnette said that Duncan advocates unity and the executive council believes that he is committed to fostering it.

Lewis said the impression given in recent weeks was that his team did not want the unions back in the fold.

He said he had chaired a committee that held discussions with GAWU and NAACIE with the "express intent of resolving any perceived differences and ensuring their return. A memorandum of understanding dated January 17, 2001 was signed between the two parties." And the committee headed by Duncan was appointed to address the issues raised by the unions. The committee has never met.

GAWU and NAACIE first broke away from the TUC in November 1988 and with others formed the Federation of Independent Trades Unions of Guyana (FITUG). That body has since been resuscitated.