First Published February 25 1989

Sugar, Many Bauxite Workers Stay Home

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.

SUPPORT

CCWU President Mr. Gordon Todd had, at two public meetings in the city to build support for the day of protest, thrown his weight behind the call.

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)

 

 

 

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