By Sharief Khan
THE one-day protest call by the dissident trade union alliance echoed resoundingly in the sugar and bauxite belts yesterday but sounded hollow in the capital Georgetown.
Operations ground to a halt on sugar estates as sugar workers came out in force for the day of protest and continued their stand for an amelioration of the food situation.
It was an almost similar situation in Linden and like other bauxite communities of Everton and Kwakwani, union and independent sources said.
However, the Guyana Public Communications Agency said there was a 70% turnout of the production workers at Linden.
The protest was called by the seven member Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) but even as the alliance’s first test of its popularity with the nation experienced mixed fortunes, cracks emerged in its ranks.
The Clerical and Commercial Workers’ Union (CCWU), one of the seven, pulled out of the day of protest at a late stage, effectively crippling any impact the protest call would have had on the city’s main commercial stores.
The union’s withdrawal from the day of protest has now cast questions over its further FITUG tenancy and top alliance sources were yesterday puzzled at the CCWU’s position.
“I can sympathise with Todd,” one FITUG top member said however.
The CCWU pull-out decision was communicated by letter to a FITUG statutory meeting Wednesday. Alliance sources said the CCWU Executive Committee and General Council had been concerned that the date for the protest was announced before the two bodies had given a clear mandate.
The two organs decided that the day fixed for the protest “was illtimed and weighs heavily against the desired impact that FITUG would “wish to register at this point in time,” the letter to the alliance Chairman Mr. George Daniels said.
FITUG is meeting in a special session today to review yesterday’s exercise, Daniels disclosed.
He confirmed an assessment by the Guyana Public Communication Agency (GPCA) that turnout in the public service was almost unaffected by yesterday’s protest call.
Daniels is also President of the Guyana Public Service Union and he said his General Council had mandated union support for the day of protest. Response was poor, he said, but blamed this on threats of dismissal levelled at public service employees.
The GPCA denied the dismissal threats allegation declaring, “there has been no prior official directive of any kind to employees coercing them to attend work.”
Daniels disputed this and charged that GPSU members reported employees were ordered not to take the day off yesterday.
‘They were told that not even a medical certificate would be accepted and that they would be dismissed if they did not turn out today,” Daniels said.
He added, “it seems people have responded to threats to go to work and were fearful of losing their jobs. Time will tell.”
The tale in the sugar and bauxite belts was different.
General Secretary of the Guyana Bauxite Supervisors’ Union (GBSU), Mr. Lincoln Lewis said that more than 75 per cent of the organized labour force at Linden stayed home. At Kwakwani more than 99 per cent stayed away and workers also remained at home at Everton, Lewis reported.
He said that his union and the Guyana Mine Workers’ Union (GMWU) were targeting for between 55 and 60 percent support from the labour force.
“But in all localities the stay at home call was supported by a bigger turnout than we expected,” he said.
General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), Mr. Komal Chand said the sugar belt was almost completely shut down.
“There has been full support from almost all sections,” Chand said, adding that canes were not being fed into the grinding factories.
US-Guyana Relations Good – Murray
AFTER weeks of what Trade and Tourism Minister Winston Murray, described as “unavoidable delays” a new PL 480 agreement for United States wheat to Guyana was signed on Wednesday.
The signing ceremony took place in the boardroom of the Ministry of Trade and Tourism and with Minister Murray and the United States Ambassador to Guyana, Theresa Ann full officiating.
Mr. Murray in a short speech after the signing of the agreement said the wheat should be in Guyana by the first week of April.
He referred to the continued good relations between Guyana and the U.S. and the ready responses from Washington in other areas of assistance, as being indicative of the on going smoothness of these relations.
The Trade and Tourism Minister pledged to ensure that relations between the government of President Desmond Hoyte and the administration of President George Bush go from strength to strength.
The U.S. Ambassador, who was signing her third PL 480 agreement in Georgetown, said the agreement which involved the coordination of three separate departments within the administration in Washington, showed the continued good relationship between Guyana and the U.S.
The agreement provides for a loan of $4m (US) for the purchase of wheat under a concessional sales agreement at low interest rates and with a long-term repayment period.
According to the provisions of the agreement the Guyana dollar proceeds from the sale of wheat will be used to support self- help projects in rural agricultural communities.
About 26,000 metric tons of wheat are expected to be shipped to Guyana under the new agreement.
The lapsing of the agreement has caused a shortage of wheat for milling locally, resulting in a serious flour shortage. (CAG)