Lewis urges CARICOM to implement decision to give seat to labour, private sector at Heads of Gov’t ‘table’

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley could play a key role in securing seats for the regional private sector and the trade union movement at the CARICOM Heads of Government table

Veteran Guyanese trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis has told the Stabroek Business that CARICOM must move expeditiously to ensure the urgent implementation of the recent decision by Heads of Government that the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas be amended to allow representatives of the private sector and labour to participate in CARICOM Heads of Government meetings.

Lewis, the General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, says its implementation without delay will mark “a key step towards the democratization of decision-making at the regional level”.

“I think that such a decision has been a long time coming though my concern is that given that now the development has been made public that it be followed by effective implementation in the shortest possible time. Actually this is nothing new. The trade union movement’s role in the socio-political evolution of the Caribbean has been well known and what we are witnessing is the materialisation of what ought to be a logical process,” Lewis told Stabroek Business.

Guyana Trades Union Congress General Secretary Lincoln Lewis wants the Caribbean Congress of Labour to be the focal point for discussions on labour’s involvement in decision-making at the level of CARICOM Heads.

And according to the GTUC Head, the issue of affording both the labour movement and the private sector a voice at the decision-making table within CARICOM had been particularly popular during the tenure of Owen Arthur as Prime Minister of Barbados. “In a sense it is fitting that the issue is now at the front and centre of regional politics at a time when Mia Mottley is Prime Minister of Barbados. You will recall that she served as Deputy to Prime Minister Arthur. I think that it is fitting that it was she who made the public announcement and I believe that speedy implementation is very likely during her tenure as Prime Minister of Barbados”, he said. Lewis said that he believed that the enshrinement of the decision in the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas should be a matter between the regional movement and the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) through the active participation of its members from the various labour movements in the region.

“I think that this is a historic development insofar as when the decision becomes enshrined in the Treaty what it will effectively do is to have the trade union movement and the private sector share with the various regional Heads of Government, responsibility for decision-making on critical developmental issues in the region. That is as it should be since, while I cannot speak for the private sector, I would venture to say that both labour and business have by now, more than earned their respective places at the regional decision-making table. “In terms of the trade union movement, we must not forget that it was labour that helped to prepare the people of the region for the democratic process which is the staple political diet in the region today,” Lewis said.

The GTUC Leader told Stabroek Business that in the meanwhile, he was looking forward to working with his colleagues at the level of the CCL to ensure the implementation in the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas of a clause that reflects the spirit of the decision, “which I believe is to deepen and broaden the base of democratic behaviour in the Caribbean society”.

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