UG unions should remain in TUC and fight for Lewis’ removal

Dear Editor,

Below are my opinions on the imbroglio developing between the General Secretary of the TUC (not the TUC itself) and the two UG unions. These opinions are in response to the adumbrations of the two unions in a letter carried in both independent dailies of May 30, 2019.

I have been a friend of Lincoln Lewis for more than forty years. Prior to my denunciation of his anti-worker attitudes, we were more than just casual friends. We were part of a broad consensus that dictatorship must be struggled against. In the process, a friendship was forged, a friendship I think that I may no longer be interested in continuing with.

I will not shut my mouth or put down my pen on what Lewis has been doing at UG the past six years. Lewis is guilty in my opinion of deep-seated betrayal of sacred trade union principles and workers’ rights for which I honestly believe he should be removed as General-Secretary (GS) of the TUC, a position he has held for over 25 years without being elected.

An aspect of my long activism (over fifty years) in this country that I cherish was my role as de facto head of the University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU). One of its lasting legacies is that it got the University Council to change one of its statutes that banned academics from the Council as the union representative. Prior to the change, only a non-academic could be the union’s appointee.

There was a time at the beginning of the 21st century when politics had driven total fear into this country and the UGWU was not afraid to picket and demonstrate for just causes in Guyana and at UG. It is against this background I was livid, shaking and emotional when I read about the disrespect Lewis was showing to the UGWU and the other union at UG.

I wanted to save my friendship with Lewis so two years ago I called him on the phone to denounce what the TUC was doing at UG through its appointee, Ivor English. It was one of the roughest denunciations I was engaged in. My decibels were out of control. Lewis was unmoved and supportive of what English was doing. That was the end of me and Lewis. I could not keep a friendship with someone who so set out to destroy a union I worked tirelessly to preserve.

When the bauxite bosses again violated their workers’ rights a few months ago, Lewis called me on the phone to request a critique. I agreed to do it and told him he had my unconditional solidarity but I didn’t want to write anything at Lewis’ request because by that time, I no longer had any respect for him. He called again. I never did the column although I was in solidarity with the bauxite workers. Lewis will continue with his betrayal, recklessness and dictatorship at as the TUC’s GS because the unions in Guyana are not prepared to remove him, an action long overdue.

Lewis has no respect for rules and principles and he has done enormous damage to trade union unity. FITUG will never merge with the TUC once Lewis is there. That was told to me by FITUG leaders and leaders of the TUC.  The government will never restore Critchlow’s subvention once Lewis is there. If you look at Lewis’ record it is frightening. One – he runs a one-man show at the TUC and the Critchlow College. Two – he decides who becomes TUC president. When he can’t control them, he undermines them. He did this to Gillian Burton and literally forced her into the arms of the PPP.

Three – he is responsible for the complete disdain the Caribbean Congress of Labour has for the TUC in Guyana because of his dictatorial rule there when he was its general-secretary. I would ask readers to Google the controversy. Four – the TUC rules stipulate that the GS and the President must not come from the same union. Lewis is from the bauxite union so is Leslie Gonsalves. He made Gonsalves the TUC president in defiance of the constitution.

Five – he decides who should be registrar of the college. He decides who should be the lecturers. This led to a big fallout with Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and Aubrey Norton. I don’t think Mr. Norton is on speaking terms with Lewis. Six – at the last May Day rally, he denounced the no-confidence vote. That was getting into politics and insensitive since many unions support and supported the vote. I would suggest to the unions, not to leave the TUC but agitate for the removal of Lewis. He has unfortunately become the opposite of what he was. The unions’ letter tells it all.

Yours faithfully,

Frederick Kissoon  

Around the Web