A strike by the city’s workers ended yesterday after approval was officially given by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) for an agreed 5% salary increase at an extra-ordinary meeting.
The payout is to be made on Friday.
The meeting was held after the Labour Ministry intervened in a row between the M&CC and the acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba, which had resulted in the workers striking and major city markets being closed since Monday as a result. Sooba acted on a recommendation by the Labour Ministry to call the extra-ordinary meeting, after she ignored directions to do so by Mayor Hamilton Green. The wrangling resulted in major losses to vendors and stallholders, who operate at the Stabroek, Bourda and Kitty markets, which were affected by the strike.
The strike was called after the union representing clerical and administrative workers of the municipality, the Guyana Local Government Officers Union (GLGOU), gave the M&CC 48 hours to meet the increase. However, the Council was unable to do so after Sooba refused to act on a request by the Mayor to hold the extra-ordinary meeting and councillors refused to sign a document circulated by her to indicate their approval.
According to the M&CC Public Relations Officer Royston King, due to the deadlock the Council received a call from the Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle requesting that they along with the GLGOU and the administration department of City Hall attend a meeting at the ministry.
King related that the meeting at the ministry led to the full council meeting, which Sooba had earlier refused to call. “She should have called the meeting earlier but she refused to. The Mayor of Georgetown has the right to call an extra-ordinary meeting whenever he wants. She should have complied with that request and things would have been resolved sooner…,” King said.
Earlier yesterday morning, about 30 angry workers turned up at City Hall for a protest to voice their frustration at the situation. They said that they had been caught in the crossfire of the ongoing power struggle between the Council and Sooba.
Meanwhile, the Mayor earlier in the day had written to the Minister of Local Government Norman Whittaker, asking him to let Sooba call the extra-ordinary meeting. “Mr. Minister to solve the present problem is simple and straight forward, instead of your imperial like threats of illegal Ministerial action to ‘intervene’, you would be better served if you instruct Ms. Carol Ryan Sooba to obey the law, follow tradition and know her place, by having her call the Extra Ordinary Meeting requested…,” the letter stated. Green also told the Minister that if he were truly concerned about the union members’ conditions and the welfare of the citizens, he should have paid some attention to the many complaints that were brought before him over a period of time that had to do with the administration at City Hall.
Other accusations were also levelled in the letter and Green called for a confession from the Minister and the government that they were using a “megalomaniac” to put the M&CC in disarray instead of holding local government elections without delay.