Government will not allow the city council to put its interests above those of the workers

Dear Editor,

When will the Georgetown City Council put the interest of residents first?

1) The recent withdrawal of their services by the administrative and clerical staff of the Georgetown City Council at the behest of the labour union representing that category of city council workers, that is the Guyana Local Government Officers Union (GLGOU), can best be described as an avoidable course of action that a concerned, caring, responsible council would have pre-empted and addressed in a timely manner, having regard to the available bargaining process for dealing with wages, salaries and other grievances that may exist between workers of the council and their respective labour unions.

2) I am aware that both the GLGOU and the GLU which represent primarily ancillary staff of the council have collective bargaining agreements with the council. Furthermore, these agreements set out, inter alia, the collective bargaining process that must be followed.

3) This process I am aware, sees the Personnel and Training and the Finance Committees of the city council mandated by the latter conducting negotiations with the union, and in the process of negotiation updating the statutory meeting of the council as the process moves forward. Ultimately the committees make a recommendation to the council based on a consensus position arrived at with the union.

4) The Guyana Labour Union, I am informed, followed this process of negotiation and the collective bargaining agreement went to the council and got its blessing and approval.

5) This notwithstanding, the negotiations between the council and the GLGOU have seen extraneous issues factoring into the bargaining process. While the Personnel and Training and Finance Committees have arrived at a consensus on the relevant matters and have forwarded this for the council’s approval at its statutory meeting, the latter has set preconditions for approval, including the issue of increased duty and travelling allowances and gratuity payments to councillors. To its discredit also, the council wants this payment retroactive to 2012 when indeed councillors’ remuneration were appropriated out of council funds with the approval of the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development as per the Municipal and District Councils Act 15 of 2013. Furthermore, while “reasonable travelling and subsistence allowances” are also payable to councillors, such payments are made with the express approval of the Minister as set out in the said Municipal and District Councils Act.

Thus, the preconditions to be met in order to render Councillors eligible for such payments as are set out above are clear and explicit. They are contingent on the councillors carrying out their official duties and responsibilities in a responsible way. There is no nexus between what the unions negotiate and what benefits the councillors receive.

6) This is the demand of a cash-strapped, non-performing, inept, lethargic council that has been unable over many years to garner as much as fifty per cent of its budgeted revenue and which has found itself hard pressed to deliver even some basic services, viz, maintaining basic infrastructure constructed by the PPP/C government.

7) I am informed that the several efforts by the Town Clerk ag to convene a special statutory meeting of the council to discuss and try to bring resolution to the industrial matters outlined above have seen council focused on irrelevant and personal issues with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor along with many of the councillors putting their own personal agenda before the workers’

interest and concerns. How selfish has this council been? Their contribution to the people’s welfare/interests has been minimal but they seek to optimize their personal gains.

8) The PPP/C Government and the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development have been putting many resources into improving the aesthetics of the city; we have sought to fix several of the trucks; and expended much on improving the city infrastructure. In so doing, we have determined that the council would be well placed to use the huge savings to sustain the improved natural environment in which the Mayor and the councillors live.

9) While the Mayor and many of the councillors have by their actions demonstrated total disregard for the mutual agreement reached between the Personnel and Financial Committees of the Council and the GLGOU, and by extension ignored the collective bargaining process, I will continue to monitor this situation which could not be allowed to continue.

While the city council may not care, we of the PPP/C do care. I assure those vendors who have been denied the market facilities in which to vend, and those who have been denied the abattoir and other facilities, that we stand ready to take measures we deem necessary to correct this situation.

We will not allow the council to put their interest above those of its workers. We care.

Yours faithfully,

Minister Norman Whittaker

Minister of Local Government

and Regional Development.

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