Progress made in sealing union movement divide

Stabroek News, 25 April 2000

Single May Day rally likely this year

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and two of its affiliates are in sight of unity once again and there is a strong likelihood of a united May Day rally this year at the National Park.

Following the dispute with the parent body, two of the most powerful unions in the country held a separate May Day rally last year.

A spokesman for one of the unions, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) said yesterday that given the spirit in which the talks between the two sides have been progressing, it was likely an understanding would be cemented before May Day. He also reported that enough progress had been made on the other issues for dialogue to continue.

Significantly, GAWU was represented at the TUC's wreath-laying ceremony at Public Buildings on Sunday which marked the beginning of Critchlow Week.

For some months now a three-man committee appointed by the Executive Council of the TUC and headed by the General Secretary Lincoln Lewis has been having talks with two of its affiliates, GAWU and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) in an effort to resolve issues which led to them suspending their membership in the TUC.

The other members of the special committee are Carville Duncan, General Secretary of the Guyana Labour Union and Roy Hughes, President of the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union. The two unions suspended their membership amid a bitter row with the TUC over the latter's solidarity support for the strike called by the Guyana Public Service Union in April last year.

A meeting between the two sides was held on Saturday even though NAACIE asked to be excused at which the May Day rally was discussed.

The issues being focused on relate to the auditing of the accounts of the unions affiliated to the TUC and certificates issued to the Registrar of Trade Unions; the elimination of so-called paper unions which should be made possible by unions being required to produce certificates of the audited accounts which would determine the size of their membership; the opportunity for representatives of GAWU and NAACIE to be elected to the presidency of the TUC; the lack of opportunities for GAWU and NAACIE members to be exposed to seminars and other conferences at which the TUC is represented; and the need for all affiliates of the TUC to be treated with respect. The GAWU spokesman told Stabroek News that resolution of some of the issues would require amendments to the TUC rules and that there would need to be a timetable for effecting the required rule changes.

A British trade unionist who visited Guyana earlier this year had also urged the TUC and its affiliates to patch up their differences, contending that the largest union in the country should not be outside of the umbrella body.

Stabroek News has learnt that the TUC executive council has agreed to many of the proposals put forward by the two unions while others, they observed, would require a decision by the TUC's Biennial Delegates Conference or of a special Delegates Conference summoned to deal with them. However, the question of the TUC presidency, the executive council forwarded, could only be decided by the delegates congress.

In recent months the Government through the Public Service Ministry (PSM) has been pressing unions holding bargaining rights for the public sector workers to have their accounts audited. The PSM has threatened to end the check-off of union dues if the unions did not comply.