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Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, on Friday, condemned President Irfaan Ali’s attack on the country’s trade unions, who in recent days rejected Government’s imposition of a 7% across the board increase for public servants.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), in particular, have insisted that the Government must abide by the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA), and in doing so, sit at the negotiation table, before arriving at a meaningful increase.
But President Ali, during an address to the nation on Friday morning, said the unions are driven by “so-called trade union leaders” who are really “political operatives.”
“If you look at their attitude and behavior, and their level of activism now, compared to when the APNU+AFC was in Government, you would see that they are driven by an agenda, and in this country, sometimes you do not want to call a spade, a spade but you have a president who is willing to call a spade a spade,” President Ali said while further accusing the trade unions of attempting to distort the facts.
In response, Harmon said it was unfortunate that the President would resort to attacking trade unionists when in fact, he should be seeking to consult with them in the interest of public servants.
“But this is the type of leadership the PPP is accustomed to practicing – attack rather than consult and cooperate,” the Opposition Leader said.
He said President Ali and all of Guyana must acknowledge that the Government violated the country’s labour laws when it failed to negotiate with the workers’ representatives – the unions – ahead of the increase.
In a statement, GPSU) said the entire fiasco was a “display of executive lawlessness by the Government.”
“Their actions constitute a violation of Article 147(3) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Section 23 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act 1997, International Labour Organization Convention 151 which was unanimously ratified by the Parliament of Guyana and is currently in force, and the legally binding Agreement between the GPSU and Government of Guyana for the Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes,” GPSU stated.
In light of the breach, the Union wrote President Ali to not only register its concerns but to insist that the blatant disregard for the Constitution, the International Labour Organization Conventions and Laws of Guyana, he corrected. GTUC also wrote the President but it is not likely that he has responded to their concern.