I refer to a letter by Freddie Kissoon in the Stabroek News dated Friday, May 31, 2019 entitled `UG unions should remain in TUC and fight for Lewis’ removal’.
I would first like to say that on many issues I do not support his views but at the same time he is entitled to free expression.
Secondly, I agree with him that the University of Guyana Unions should and must remain in the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC). The unions in the GTUC have been and continue to be in solidarity with the bauxite workers, the sugar workers, the University Unions, the teachers’ union, the Guyana Local Government Officers Workers Union and in a small but somewhat insignificant way, with the United Minibus Union (UMU) and the Guyana Market Vendors Union (GMVU).
The GTUC and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) have, over the past couple of years (after 2015), been marching and sharing the same platform on Labour Day and it is being touted that the Trade Union Movement is more united now than ever before. I personally believe that is a fallacy since lions and hyenas are traditionally enemies and in centuries to come, that will not change. What we have here is a marriage that is meant to benefit some key players of similar character but not the workers that make up their membership.
I find it very strange that whenever a GTUC meeting is called (a special meeting since its monthly statutory meetings are hardly ever kept) a selected few are invited and members of FITUG outnumber the GTUC Executives.
I agree with Freddie that the General Secretary is a one-man show at the GTUC and the Critchlow Labour College (CLC) and that he decides who becomes GTUC President and Registrar and I would never forget his brutal removal of the late Colonel Godwin Mc Pherson, the then Registrar, who was instrumental in having the college subvention restored which was later stopped for reasons better left unsaid. The ‘A Partnership for National Unity’ (APNU) Government restored the college subvention after ascending to office and the General Secretary was livid at the amount offered and threatened not to accept same. The government however, continued to honour that commitment and wisely attached conditions, before that subvention is released.
Intellectuals like Dr. Roopnaraine and Aubrey Norton, were forced to leave the college. David Yaw and I, the two Administrative Assistants, had to go since we supported the managing and academic programmes set by Dr. Roopnaraine and the late Colonel Mc Pherson. Even senior staff, Leslie Gonsalves, was fired since he did not appear to be loyal to a fellow bauxite trade unionist.
I had stated in my letter to the Guyana Chronicle dated 20-01-2018 that the GTUC needs to treat with matters of national importance such as the GuySuCo workers’ severance scenario as a collective, and not for GTUC Executives becoming aware of such matters by seeing writings on same for the first time in the newspapers.
While the General Secretary was ranting and almost driven to tears on the sugar workers’ severance scenario, it should be known that Dr. Roopnaraine, the late Colonel Mc Pherson, David Yaw, and I, never got our severance and other benefits due to us since parting ways with the college in 2008, not forgetting fees still outstanding for more than 30 Critchlow Labour College, Georgetown and about 12 CLC Linden lecturers. Lecturer Clifford Blackett (deceased) had to take the college to court to get what was due to him.
The General Secretary’s letter on page seven of Stabroek News on May 31 `My advice to the UG unions is premised on basic industrial relations practices’ is just for good reading that has some historical information, but very little that can stand up to scrutiny. The UG Unions have been in the GTUC for many years while the United Minibus Union (UMU) has been there for a few years and as he had done before with the UMU, he is attempting to publicly embarrass the UG unions by stating that informal/non-traditional unions have no collective labour agreement, subtly indicating that the GTUC is doing this type of union a favour by accepting their membership and that they must know their place but what he is not aware of or he chooses to conveniently ignore, is that, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), recognising that labour is being assailed by a global dynamic and that what is evolving is an army of self-employed workers has added to its Constitution ‘Recommendation 202’ to accommodate, capture and retain these types of workers.