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By Lincoln Lewis
It is once again noticed Minister of Labour Joe Hamilton has moved with haste to seek resolution into the wages/salaries grievances with workers employed by GPL who are represented by NAACIE. Whereas as a trade unionist I am encouraged by the Ministry moving with alacrity to conciliate in grievance matters it cannot help but be noted such action is only applicable to some trade unions.
Hamilton is playing a dangerous game in dividing the working class by selectively applying the Labour Laws and actively trampling on the rights of some workers. And whereas the Ali/Jagdeo regime is hell-bent on pursuing a divided society Hamilton should be advising against same.
The laws are very clear on industrial relations matters and Hamilton has the responsibility to ensure a stable and harmonious industrial relations climate. Where in our society labour is concentrated in some sectors and areas based on ethnicity and political persuasion, the Minister of Labour should never be seen as providing preferential treatment to any group when the law protects all.
Under the law, GAWU and NAACIE are not superior to other trade unions. They may be considered friendly or aligned unions to the PPP/C but that does not make them superior. Thus, when the government moves to address the grievances of these unions and ignore those of others they confirm their biases and discriminatory practices.
There are so many other unions apart from GAWU and NAACIE who have grievances unattended and lying at the Ministry of Labour and the Minister is ignoring them. For instance, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) has laid before the Minister, more than a year ago, outstanding grievances. To date, he has refused to address them. One such matter is the incorrect calculation of Termination Benefits for workers employed at the Bauxite Company Guyana Inc. (BCGI).
What would move a minister, government and supporters of this injustice to consider such discriminatory practice acceptable? How could they, with honesty and conviction, speak of ‘One Guyana’ when their policies, programmes and actions are perpetuating the marginalisation of some and a divided Guyana.
Today I publicly call on Minister Hamilton to stop the divisive enforcement of the Labour Laws and attend to the outstanding grievances languishing in the Ministry of Labour and on his desk. The workers of Guyana, irrespective of ethnicity, trade union representation or perceived political persuasion, are entitled to equal respect and protection under the law.