By SHARIEF KHAN
THE backlash of the FITUG one-day protest last Friday is turning out to be furious and is intensifying the rift between government and the dissident seven-member trade union alliance. In a surprise development the Guyana Mining Enterprise (Guymine) has immediately de-recognised the two bauxite unions and terminated all relations because of what Guymine claims is a breach of commitment in calling out bauxite workers as part of the day of protest by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FlTUG).
Supervisory and other top level ranks in the industry have been asking workers at Linden and other locations to explain their absence from work on Friday, General Secretary of the Guyana Mine Workers’ Union (GMWU) Mr. Christopher James reported yesterday.
Guymine Administrative Co-ordinator, Mr. Walter Melville, yesterday confirmed the one-day FITUG protest had “seriously affected” operations, a development the industry could ill- afford at this time, he added.
Reports from the Essequibo Coast said that about 12 teachers from two schools there who did not report to work Friday have been suspended indefinitely. This however, could not be immediately confirmed officially. The day of protest was called against continuing deteriorating economic and social conditions and further reports coming in this week said that its impact was widely felt
outside of the capital.
Commuter flow on the Demerara River ferry service ebbed and legal services in the city were largely affected. Many legal offices were closed and those lawyers who turned up in courts left after appearing to ensure cases were not struck out in their absence, sources said.
Taxi and mini-bus operations also dwindled, according to reports.
Up to late yesterday, the most serious repercussion however, centred at the main bauxite town of Linden where the GMWU and its sister union, the Guyana Bauxite Supervisors Union (GBSU) pondered their fate.
GPSU General Secretary, Mr. Lincoln Lewis, said the move could push the unions “underground” forcing them to operate like Solidarity trade union in Poland.
The termination of relations with the unions came as three FITUG top members left for Barbados to brief the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) on developments in the labour
The CCL has been trying to patch deep-seated differences between FITUG and the pro-
government affiliates in the Guyana Trades Union Congress (TUC). The TUC declined an invitation for a joint meeting with FITUG at yesterday’s CCL forum, TUC General Secretary Mr. Joseph Pollydore said, adding that the TUC felt it would serve no useful purpose.
The de-recognition is certain to push the wedge further between government and the dissidents.
Melville said the company had advised the two unions against disrupting the bauxite operations, at this time, and he said the “question of trust is now in the balance.”
“We have cut all relations with them until we can work out what footing we are on,” Melville said.
“They are now saying to us that we can not exercise our constitutional right in this country (by going on protest),” Lewis said and declared, “the whle situation now is one where we will have to fight it out.”
“We will survive. There will always be a GMWU and a GBSU,” Lewis said. He felt that the industry would suffer more than the unions from this kind of action.
He added, “if the rules are not put back in place shortly as we expect,” then the unions would have to go underground and operate outside the rules.”
Guymine has, as part of the derecognition move, stopped the deduction of dues for the unions but James said, “we are of the view that the workers, are going to come forward and pay their dues. We are going to ensure that we put up the mechanism to have the dues collected and we are going to continue to make representations. If the management doesn’t want to listen to us we are going to make representation at other levels.”
James argued that the constitutional right to strike by workers has been violated by the derecognition of the unions and said this was a retrograde step.
A Guymine information employee bulletin issued yesterday claimed , that the two unions breached a commitment to officially inform the company of the unions stand on the FITUG call.
The company claimed that at a meeting with the two unions On February 21 the two had promised to inform Guymine about their official position on the day of protest later in the afternoon after a joint general membership meeting.
“This commitment was not honoured and several efforts throughout that evening by management to contact them for a response proved futile,” the company said.
The bulletin added that on Friday, “the company’s operations were disrupted by a strike by some of our employees. Even essential services, such as power and water in Kwakwani were affected.
“This seriously hampered our production efforts at a time when we need to ensure high levels of production to continue to enhance the well-being of our employees, communities and the nation as a whole.
“The senior management of the company will not condone such insensitive and inconsistent behaviour by the union leadership which has resulted in some of our employees being encouraged to strike. The company has decided that it will not recognise the present officials of the union as bargaining agents for its employees, with immediate effect. Further, the company will suspend the deduction of union dues.”
In the meantime, the Guyana Public Communications Agency has put out what it says are official figures of attendances at Linden on the day of protest showing an average attendance in the various departments of sixty-two per cent of the workforce.
FITUG has officially denied that there is any division with the CCWU, one of the members which for various reasons did not call out its members on the day of protest and says that the organization has “emerged a stronger and united force.”
Teen of the Week
JOY Liverpool’s ambition is to become a Psychiatrist, but so far, she says, she is not aware of any local institution that provides the training.
“So after leaving school I’ll work in Guyana for about a year and then leave for the Caribbean Union College in Trinidad and Tobago. That college is managed by the Seventh Day Adventist Church of which I’m a member,” Joy said.
Seventeen -year-old Joy is presently in the Upper six commercial form at St. Rose’s High School. She studies five, subjects all of which she will take at CXC examinations. “Actually, if I don’t get to go to Trinidad I’ll become an accountant,” she said, adding that she would rather study psychiatry because she feels the growing children need a lot of help.
Joy, who lived in Mocha Arcadia from birth says transportation is no hassle for her as her parents own a mini-bus. Living with nine brothers and sisters, the teen feels that the larger a family the greater the joy.
She said that compared to Georgetown, Mocha is relatively free from the thieves. The message to her peers instead of doing anything stupid they should “try Christ for the crisis.”