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|We are living in a land with shrinking freedoms. Whereas our Western brothers look and talk about China cracking down on freedoms, they ignore ours right here, which though manifests differently, amounts to the same- freedoms denied, freedoms under threat. The industrial and social environments have turned for the worse.
The eroding or disregard for human rights by office bearers in the institutions of state pose clear and present threat to the stability of the nation and the cohesion of its people. These office bearers are not there to interpret the law or disregard the law based on fancy, ethnic or political agenda, or whatever reason they choose. They are there to make sure the law is enforced based on its spirit and intent.
We continue to witness erosion of rights by the government who is being enabled by institutions and branches of the state. Take for example, the recent incident where the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali–Hack, threw out a private criminal charge brought by Shawnette Bollers against Narvin Singh for allegedly assaulting and throwing racial epithets at her whilst she was on duty, in her capacity as a police, at his father’s resident.
In a racially charged society such as ours the DPP has decided by the stroke of her pen to deny a citizen judicial recourse. Whereas the Constitution grants the DPP the authority to terminate prosecution, the specific Bollers/Singh case confirms abuse of authority to deny the aggrieved recourse to justice. The matter should have been brought before the court and have the court decide, based on evidence, whether the aggrieved allegation is with or without merit.
Whereas the constitution guarantees the freedom for an aggrieved to resort to the court for justice, the decision by the DPP to terminate the case, without even an explanation, is a denial of Bollers’ freedom under the said Constitution.
This nation was not only done a disservice by the DPP’s decision, but she has also dealt a blow to the judicial system as a legitimate means for recourse. Where people feel the law will not allow due process, they tend to turn to vigilante justice which does the aggrieved, accused and society a grave disservice. The information that Bollers’ lawyers will take her grievance all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice is welcomed.
In the working environment workers continue to face threats to constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of association, the enjoyment of collective bargaining, and working under conditions that threaten their health and safety. Workers are being exploited by foreign capital in their land and in violation of the laws which the Ministry of Labour is turning a blind eye to.
Workers are toiling for more than 40-hour work per week with no overtime. They are working more than eight-hour a day without overtime. Some are working under conditions where employers, including the government, have no regard for Occupational Safety and Health regulations.
The government has no seeming interest in fostering working class rights and dignity for all workers. They are more interested in sowing seeds of discord and getting the oil money. They are denying collective bargaining to some, the very vehicle that took many out of poverty in the 1960s-1980s. The disregard for the right to collective bargaining has adversely impacted workers’ satisfaction in the workplace and sense of belonging.
When people/workers feel they aren’t given a voice to articulate and represent grievances and opportunities for upliftment, and management or the powerful could get away with violating laws and transgressing rights, it creates an environment of hostility, fear and malaise, affecting confidence and productivity levels.
Collective bargaining works to the benefit of both employer and workers because it cultivates a harmonious industrial environment which positively impacts production, productivity and the reward of labour. Look at successful unionised companies like, Banks DIH, Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) and Sol. There are lessons to learn here- and I say this to both workers and employers.
Whereas it is clear only sugar workers can guarantee instant and favourable resolution of their industrial disputes, bauxite workers, teachers, nurses and public servants are not guaranteed the same treatment. We are a nation under one law, and we should not accept or be silent to the blatant discriminatory practices and policies of the Ali/Jagdeo regime. We must stand up and fight.