GTUC’s public positions on sugar industry not inconsistent with trade union principles, organisation’s policy

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to the letter `GTUC never had any discussion on closure of sugar estates’ written by Eon Andrews, Vice-President, GTUC (SN January 20, 2018). The structure of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the roles of its principal officers are clearly defined in its constitution.

This constitution vests the authority in the General Secretary for the day-to-day administration and activities of the organisation.

The office holder is so empowered to publicly speak to issues that impact the welfare and interest of workers/citizens, be they in the workforce or out, unionised or non-unionised. Speaking is done via various means such as press statement/release, letters, interviews and appearing on programmes.

Issues attending to our constituency run the gamut from governance to the minutest of rights and violations by employer, government, institutions and individual.

The Central Executive Council of the GTUC has responsibility to ensure that all activities of the organisation are executed within the purview of the policies which are informed by international trade union principles and guided by the Constitution of Guyana, laws and Collective Labour Agreement.

Prioritising of the activities of the organisation is the responsibility of the General Secretary. However, should there exist a difference of opinion as the execution of such, the Central Executive Council allows for ventilation and guidance, after following a process of deliberation, debates and determination.

On the matter of the state of the sugar industry and particularly the treatment of the trade union and sugar workers, the GTUC’s public positions on the issues are not inconsistent with trade union’s principles and the organisation’s policy.  At the day-to-day operational level these tenets are the responsibility of the General Secretary to publicly articulate, defend and advance.  It also includes speaking out against day-to-day violations and transgressions. Silence is not an option the office holder can exercise.

To the reference made that the Postal and Telecommunication Workers Union

(PTWU) is fighting for its survival and said passion directed to sugar should be directed to this union, there has been no discriminatory treatment on the two issues. While sugar attracts more public attention and corresponding articulation by the GTUC, the PTWU continues to benefit from the advice of the GTUC Secretariat. Should this matter become publicly volatile and rancid as sugar, GTUC with the same passion being given to sugar shall make its position public.

It is not lost on me the concerns raised by Bro. Andrews with regards to the discriminatory treatments meted out to the GTUC, its arms and affiliated unions by the PPP/C Government. Neither too are the instances of silence to such abuses by unions in FITUG or the preferential treatment given to them by the PPP/C Government. At the same time, where the trade union sees the creating of a just society built on equality and dignity in the treatment of all, it would be an abrogation of my duties as a trade unionist and guardian of the GTUC to stay silent when violations and transgressions occur under the APNU+AFC Government.

My day-to-day activities as a trade unionist and General Secretary are guided by the GTUC Constitution, universal acceptable principles, international conventions and charters, universal declarations and the rule of law, not how I feel or vote.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

General Secretary

GTUC

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