Letter from Ministry of Labour was intended to foster an amicable resolution to the university impasse

Dear Editor,

We wish to refer to several utterances which have been attributed to officers attached to the unions operating at the University of Guyana and which have appeared in various sections of the media.

While we are still awaiting a formal response to our letter dated 11th February, 2015 to the President of the University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU) which was copied to the other union, we take this opportunity to respectfully respond to some of the inaccuracies and innuendoes, ascribed to them. At best the union’s comments can only be described as unfortunate.

Without hesitation, we wish to make it absolutely clear, that the contents and intention of our aforementioned letter were intended to foster an amicable resolution to the current impasse between the unions and the university’s administration.

We note with much concern, the unfounded and unsubstantiated accusation that our letter merely reflected the positions of the Minister of Labour. As a matter of fact, we would not only submit that such an accusation is baseless and without merit, but we would conclude also that it stands in contradistinction to the fact that the Ministry of Labour in general and the Labour Department in particular, function in a most ethical and professional manner.

We are not in the habit of discussing or debating with anyone via the media, but we take this opportunity to invite the union officials or anyone else for that matter, to point out at least a single instance or one area in which our letter is, in any way, related to anything which the Minister of Labour may have said in connection with the issue under focus.

We wish to reiterate that impartiality and neutrality have always been and will continue to be the hallmark of this ministry’s conduct.

A careful reading of our letter would reveal that we merely sought to highlight where the unions would have violated the tenets of prudent industrial relations practices.

Rather than embarking upon ill-advised and ill-informed accusations against this ministry, the unions may find it more productive and useful to examine their own roles and agendas in the matter under the spotlight.

We wish to reiterate that it may not be useful for this ministry to intervene in any dispute until and unless both parties in such a dispute have indicated that they have a genuine willingness to discuss whatever is the issue at hand.

In view of the foregoing, we are pleased to advise that the ministry is always willing, able and prepared to meet and discuss, in an objective manner, once the parties so mutually express a desire to meet.

At no time did this ministry abdicate its responsibility to resolve this or any other issue, no matter how small or great. We need not restate that no dispute or grievance is beyond our capacity.

May we once again indicate that we would be most pleased, if we can be of help to the parties to bring a closure to this seemingly contentious matter.

In closing, it must be emphasized that our letter of 11th February, 2015 represents a sterling effort, not only to break the current impasse, but also to present a win-win solution to all stakeholders. We wish to be advised by the unions on any aspect of our letter which could be considered biased and against the principles of good industrial relations practices. Indeed, we are confident that our stance is supported by established norms and theories which have withstood the test of time.

We must add that advantage can still be taken of the proposed win-win resolution, by having an urgent cessation of the strike and returning to the bargaining table which is the place for the settling of differences.

If only for academic purposes we must add that it is an unshakable fact that in many instances, the threat of a strike can be even more effective than the strike itself.

Indeed, the unions having made their point via the current strike action, may find that it is now time to move the process forward and put this matter to rest amicably. Our guarantee relative to the following still stands:

1)   There shall be no victimization on either side.

2)   Everything associated with the status quo ante shall prevail.

After all, they will agree that nowhere in the civilized world can trade unions act in breach of the fundamental principles of industrial relations to the benefit of themselves and those whom they seek to represent.

Our suggestion to cause the strike to be terminated so that the process of negotiations can continue in an atmosphere of normalcy is still very much alive, and the unions may wish to take advantage of it.

Yours faithfully,

Charles Ogle

Chief Labour Occupational Safety

& Health Officer

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