Bonus welcome but violates collective bargaining – GTUC

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) says while a bonus announced yesterday by the government for public servants was welcome it violated the principles of collective bargaining.

“The payment of this bonus, in the absence of an engagement and concurrence with the trade unions that represent public sector workers is another act of violating Article 147 of the Guyana Constitution and Trade Union Recognition Law Section 23 (1) and transgressing the rights of workers”, the GTUC said in a statement today.

It noted that Minister of State Joseph Harmon in responding to the Guyana Public Service Union’s complaints about disregarding collective bargaining in an earlier arbitrary salary payout had not only apologised for this but committed that such would not be repeated.

The GTUC said that the government should be advised that consistent with industrial relations principle this bonus is now part of the condition of employment for public servants. It said that while an employer can chose to put something in place, that employer has no authority under the law to remove it. Therefore, come next year and onward, the GTUC said that workers shall be entitled to their year-end bonus unless the unions agree otherwise.

It cited precedent. It said that GuyConstruct, a former state entity, paid benefits without agreement with the trade union to workers in Region 6 and management decided later that such would be arbitrarily withdrawn. The GTUC said that the union challenged the decision and the Ministry of Labour’s then Chief Labour Officer, Norman Semple made it clear that while management may have arbitrarily put the bonus in place it became a condition of the workers’ employment and could not be removed without consent by the parties i.e. trade union and management.

The GTUC noted that Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo “who broke all the labour laws in this country, has expressed satisfaction with the bonus. There is no doubt, given the labour militancy of his party, that he would have been advised that the process involved in arriving at the bonus was in violation of the tenets of collective bargaining.”

The TUC argued that industrial relations is not about gut feeling; it is guided by principles, rules and laws.  “GTUC therefore calls on the government to all times be shrewd in its decision-making and moreso to consult in order to make decisions consistent with time-honoured principles, laws and rights. While this and many other acts may be well intentioned government has to be mindful that the process it engages in does not undermine good intentions and bring disrepute to its stewardship.”

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