The government has no working class credentials

Dear Editor,

In any civilised society governance is guided by universally accepted standards which include the respect for rights, rule of law and time-honoured principles. The PPP, as a political party, when in opposition had travelled across the country and around the world crusading for respect for these tenets. Now having been given the privilege to govern, the party continues to trample on everything it crusaded for when in opposition.

Persons will recall the party promoting working class credentials and an end to what was called “squandermania” with the promise of better governance should the party accede to office. We continue to bear witness that the crusade for working class principles and better governance was the pretext to secure office to conduct a vendetta, trample on workers/citizens and violate laws to satisfy the pursuit for enrichment of a few.

The suspension, dismissal and continued mistreatment of workers at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI), a company partly owned by the Government of Guyana, is a case in point. The company’s refusal to respond to any request from the recognised union for an engagement to address any issue on behalf of the workers, which this government is aware of and refuses to do anything about, speaks to the level of collaboration with government and management to deny workers their rights.

The disregard for the Trade Union Recognition Act (Chapter 98:07) by the management of BCGI has been an issue for five years. The Minister of Labour in 2012 had enforced the Labour Act (Chapter 84:01) and imposed compulsory arbitration. The management of the company brought a challenge in court. The Minister of Labour conceded to the company’s argument and committed to the court to reissue letters to have the arbitration commence. To date these letters have not left the Minister’s desk.

Workers in the public service and state agencies like the Transport & Harbours Department, National Insurance Scheme, Forestry, University of Guyana, Guyana Post Office Corporation and every state entity, are being denied the right to collective bargaining. The exceptions to this transgression are GuySuCo and Guyana Power & Light. The Linden Electricity Incorporated (LEI) another state entity, whose board is under the chairmanship of Carvil Duncan, has for the last seven years refused to treat with the recognised union.

Quite recently the workers at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) struck and were on the streets for a prolonged period. This strike came about as a result of political interference in the day-to-day operations of the organisation, with the intent to deny workers their right to collective bargaining and opportunities to perform at their optimum.

A few days ago student nurses came out in large numbers picketing the Ministry of Health, demanding that consideration be given to their ideas in pursuit of quality education. The University of Guyana strike has been running for weeks without sustained efforts by the Ministry of Labour to conciliate in this affair and bring about a speedy resolution.

The role of the Minister of Labour is that of chief conciliator, and the responsibility is vested in him to ensure there is a stable industrial relations climate. None of the ministers of labour during the Jagdeo/ Ramotar PPP government has discharged his responsibility consistent with the laws and without fear or favour. This is indicative of the fact that the Jagdeo and Ramotar leaderships are anti-worker and anti-national but pro-survival in terms of the president’s tenure.

The PPP has said the month of March will be dedicated to the memory of the party’s Founder Leader, Dr Cheddi Jagan. The government and party will use this opportunity to blanket the nation with claims of working class credentials and improvement in governance. We must hold this current leadership accountable for the abuses, the deprivations, and the raping of our resources. Every citizen is a worker and as such every citizen must take on board the manner in which this government treats workers. And given what is stated above, collectively we must hold the government to account. It is the government that sets the tone for relations in society and if a government actively pursues policies that discriminate against citizens, it in effect is saying to other employers that they too can do likewise. Further, it is also saying to the citizenry that it is OK to be uncivil, disregard the laws and the rights of the other.

These attitudes create a lawless society and barbaric culture as evident in public life today, be it in road usage, customer service, crime, over pricing and short changing of goods and services, corruption, police brutality, to name some. The degeneracy is everywhere, and while some may be able to insulate themselves, such insulation serves as temporary relief, because it is only a matter of time before all are consumed.

Workers and citizens must recognise that they hold the key in their hands to open the door to a future they desire. A future where civility is restored to public life, good customer service is the norm, the police uphold their motto of service and protection, good governance is a daily feature, and rights and the rule of law are upheld.

Yours faithfully,
Lincoln Lewis

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