Some reflections on the state of Industrial Relations in Guyana

By Lincoln Lewis

The state of industrial relations in Guyana gives cause for considerable concern. It would not surprise me if some respondents react to this assessment by raising questions regarding “what went before.” That does not concern me. Every administration has to be held accountable for its own performance. What concerns me is whether there is evidence that those currently with the authority are addressing the problem. If there has been an effort in that regard I am not overly impressed by its outcomes.

Building a convivial industrial relations environment requires a set of conditions in which the involved parties are committed to demonstrating a mutual respect for each other’s rights. That, all to frequently, is not the case in Guyana. A smooth industrial relations environment is premised on a relationship that is guided by rules and by time-honoured principles. That smoothness has to be underpinned, as well, by a sense of principle by the men and women who are part of that arrangement. That is the only way that a convivial industrial relations environment can exist. One might add that in the final analysis, such a relationship will redound to the benefit of both parties. On the other hand, the absence of these conditions is a sure recipe for conflict.

How our industrial relations system is built

Guyana’s industrial relations regime is based on principles set out by the International Labour Organization (ILO). It is tripartite in nature. It embraces, above all else, respect for the rights of the workers, not least the right of workers to associate with a trade union of choice, a right that is embedded in  (Article 147) the Constitution of Guyana. There are other corresponding responsibilities and obligations too. The government has an overarching  responsibility to protect the rights of citizens and groups through laws and through the policies which it lays down. Employer and trade union alike, have a collective responsibility to contribute to a stable and convivial work environment. (Trade Union Recognition Act). This relationship is built on mutual respect for each other’s roles…..