Revenue Authority row

Editorial, Stabroek News, 31 January 2000

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is meeting interest groups to determine its next course of action, following a favourable response to its call for a day of rest by public servants yesterday.

This is according to an informed source close to the executive committee of the union. But a top level government contact told this newspaper yesterday that it was business as usual at government ministries and agencies in Georgetown.

The government official said the Customs and Excise Department raked in some $66 million in revenue yesterday. This was despite workers being on a go-slow exercise in support of the GPSU call.

However, reports received said the doors of branches of government ministries outside Georgetown were closed for business yesterday, the government source stated.

The GPSU source told Stabroek News that the response for the union's call for a day of rest went according to plan at the government ministries and agencies. He said in some cases workers turned up to their jobs but did not perform their duties.

The source said the next step to be taken by GPSU will be determined by the outcome of the initiatives the union is involved in, which include discussions with church bodies, political parties, trade unions in Guyana and other interest groups.

The aim of the discussions is to present GPSU's position to the groups and to hear the views of those groups, the source stated.

He indicated that it was the GPSU's view that all efforts should be made to avert a collapse in industrial relations between government and the union.

Drastic action will only be taken as a last resort by the union, he said, since it is seeking to avoid, as much as possible, the disruption of the national economy.

He disclosed that meetings have already started and among those discussions were held with yesterday were political parties and trade unions.

According to the source, correspondence has been sent to the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, the Commissioner of Police and trade unions and political organisations in the Caribbean, North America and Europe on the union's position.

Of major concern to the union is government's failure to honour its obligations as mandated by the Armstrong Tribunal Award for public servants and the terms of resumption, the source said.

The manner in which Comptroller of Customs, Clarence Chue and other Customs officers have had their services terminated was appalling and methodology used in establishing the Revenue Authority was questionable, he stated. He stated that Chue was young and highly qualified in contrast to Lloyd Forde who was appointed to act in the post and, he said, attained the age of retirement this week.

The source pointed out that the executive of the union was not opposed to the formation of the authority but was against how it was being done. The process being used in the proposed voluntary separation package for public servants is also a source of concern for the union.

The GPSU had advised it members to stay away from work yesterday, save for those who work at the hospitals, and was calling on supporters from the wider society to do likewise. A visit by this newspaper to several government ministries and agencies in Georgetown revealed that business was being conducted.