Vendors’ union wants meeting with Town Clerk before seasonal trading peaks

With the countdown to Christmas already on, the Guyana Market Vendors Union (GMVU) says that an early meeting between its leaders and Town Clerk Royston King can do much to remove some of the aggravation that frequently attends the relationship between City Hall and the urban vending community at this time of year.

“With the trading season approaching a peak, it is all the more important that we meet with City Hall officials including the Town Clerk quickly so that we can all be part of those measures that will ensure that trading goes smoothly at this time of year,” GMVU President Eon Andrews said.

Royston King
Royston King

But the status of the four-month-old GMVU as the legitimate representative of market vendors operating in some of the city’s municipal markets and trading spaces remains a matter under scrutiny, as King is demanding to be given copies of the bona fides of the union. Application to the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) for affiliation can also uncertain, despite the fact that the organization is in possession of a Certificate of Registration as a trade union from the Office of the Registrar of Trade Unions.

The latter issue has already arisen given the fact under the rules of the GTUC trade unions seeking affiliation must submit for scrutiny a recognition agreement with an employer. In the case of the GMVU its members are self-employed and it therefore possesses no recognition agreement.

When Stabroek Business spoke with General Secretary of the GTUC Lincoln Lewis on Tuesday regarding the GMVU’s application for affiliation, he said that while he saw nothing wrong with the market vendors being unionized, there was also a need to be mindful of the rules of the Congress. Lewis said he was aware of the significance of unionizing the vendors given the challenges confronting them.

Trading trials: Preparing for seasonal vending
Trading trials: Preparing for seasonal vending

Andrews said that the union is yet to make progress in its efforts to secure an audience with King. Relations between King and the vendors continue to be impacted by issues on both sides with the vendors complaining about City Hall’s failure to provide efficient garbage disposal services and other amenities. Several weeks ago, vendors at the Bourda Market had their trading interrupted on King’s instructions on the grounds that City Hall was unhappy with the manner in which the environment was being kept.

Andrews has charged that while the purpose of his request to meet with King was primarily for the purpose of formally notifying him of the formation of the union and introducing the executive, King has provided every indication that he is not prepared to meet with the union officials. Stabroek Business has been a letter from King addressed to the union’s then General Secretary Christopher Sharples, in response to a request from the union for a meeting. The letter requests that the union provide him with legal documents including its constitution, registration and articles of association. King is also seeking a list of the names and positions of the office bearers of the union, information on the methods used to select the office bearers, details of the categories of vendors represented by the union and copies of the agreement between the members and the union. In his letter King says that the documents being requested are necessary for official records, the verification of the legitimacy of the union and in order to “set the context and content of engagement between the Mayor and City Council and the union.”

Andrews said the GMVU continued to have an interest in meeting with King but he failed to see what a request for a “simple courtesy call” had to do with the submission of the documents being requested by King.

Meanwhile, claiming a membership of 250 vendors from various municipal markets and other trading areas in the city and its environs Andrews said the union was currently busying itself seeking to create the administrative arrangements to provide effective service to the members. “Cost considerations have prevented us from securing premises of our own up to this time but we continue to make the effort,” Andrews said.

Part of the immediate concern of the GMVU, Andrews said, is the spartan conditions available to vendors in the downtown area known as ‘Jurassic Park,’ where vendors removed from in front of Stabroek Market earlier this year were located. He said too that with the trading season approaching its peak with the imminent arrival of Christmas the GMVU was concerned that some of the customary difficulties that arise between City Hall and vendors do not reoccur.

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