-sends letter to Opposition leader and Speaker concerning issueGTUC’s General Secretary Lincoln Lewis during the conference along with other representatives from GAWU and FITUGThe Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) along with the Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Guyana (FITUG) met on Friday to renew their call for the reintroduction of the Labour Ministry to deal with the affairs of the workers.During a press conference at the Guyana Trade Union Congress headquarters, the trade Unions laid down a number of demands that have been proposed to the Government, but primary on the list was the reintroduction of the Labour Ministry which had been subsumed under the Social Protection Ministry after the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) assumed office in 2015.Speaking on behalf of the trade unions inclusive of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) was Lincoln Lewis, General Secretary of Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC), who said the Unions are very much aware of the remarks by the President on the issue, but they are still maintaining the point that the Ministry is an essential part in the building of the labour sector.“We have heard President Granger and we respect his position but we are saying that we have justification,” Lewis made clear.President Granger had made his position clear during an edition of the “Public Interest” that there is no need for the Labour Ministry, since it is suitably placed under the Administration of the Social Protection Ministry. The Head of State had said that if he felt there was a need for a Labour Ministry then he would have created one.“I think the labour portfolio is well placed. I think the duties within the Ministry of Social Protection are clearly defined and had made it clear why I felt that the name social protection is more appropriate,” he further stated.Though the Ministry is still technically in existence but listed under the administration of the Social Protection Ministry, the Unions are arguing that this proves how “insignificant” the Government is deeming the labour sector of Guyana.Noting the accomplishments of the trades unions over its years of existence which have been contributory factors to the progress of Guyana, Lewis cited that there should be enough emphasis placed on the sector to highlight this.Making reference to the current issues manifesting in the labour sector, Lewis concluded that these are subsisting due to the absence of the Ministry.Lewis cited that in 1982 there had been a similar occurrence where the Labour Ministry was replaced by the ”Ministry of manpower, labour and cooperative” but due to unwavering demands by the labour movement this was adjusted by the then President Linden Forbes Burnham.The Unions are hoping that this Government will also listen to their demands and realise how significant a Labour Ministry is to the economical growth of the country, primarily because it deals with the human resource, the labour force.Lewis added that is it abnormal that the Government would introduce a Ministry of Business and would not even consider the labour conditions in Guyana, though the two go hand in hand theoretically.As the Government has continued with its “rhetoric” regarding inclusion and national unity in Guyana, the Unions have sent out letters to the President, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, as well as the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, in order to have their proposals recognised broadly.Questioned on what planned actions the Unions have collectively, if these demands are not met, Lewis stated that there have been no discussions on this since the Unions believe that its proposals are just and should be agreed upon by the Government.“We believe that our proposals are just and as such we have not come up with any strategy to fight but to ensure that they consider them objectively.”As the labour sector gears toward the celebration of its accomplishment through a unified Labour Day rally and the country is preparing for its Golden Jubilee anniversary, the Unions believe that this is the time that the Government should give attention to the labour sector and more so the Ministry.
…says monies spent will have to be repaidAt a time when the Government should be in a caretaker mode, the coalition administration is continuing with activities outside of its routine role – something which the Opposition says is an abuse of State resources.During a televised interview last week, President David Granger admitted that as an interim Government, the coalition cannot pass a budget, sign new contracts or agreements, conduct any State visits and would have to limit spending, among other things.“We obviously have to keep Government running; routine functions of Government. I cannot undertake State visits and sign agreements with foreign countries. We have to limit our expenditure. We have to ensure that we do not embark on any controversial projects,” the President had said.Despite this, however, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo pointed out that the caretaker Government is still operating outside its routine functions. One such activity, he highlighted at his weekly press conference on Thursday, was the recent Investors Conference held in Trinidad and Tobago, which Jagdeo said was hosted using large sums of taxpayers’ money in a period when the Government should really be operating in a caretaker role.“They didn’t even do it when they had full powers but suddenly, they decided to go to Trinidad and Tobago and have an investors’ meeting. But what can they promise investors now? Nothing, because they can’t sign agreements and so on,” the Opposition Leader noted.That conference, which was held last week Friday, was also flagged by a Trinidad Member of Parliament, who bashed one of his government ministers for attending the event hosted by the caretaker Government.Nevertheless, Jagdeo went on to say too that the coalition is still spending taxpayers’ monies on its politically-motivated ministerial outreaches.A notice circulating from Government announced another one of the coalition’s “Bring Government to the People” outreach, this time in the Upper Mazaruni region on August 1.The programme details visits of: Indigenous Peoples Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock to Imbaimadai Village and Paruima Village; Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams to Jawalla Settlement; Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan to Waramadong Village and Government Member of Parliament Mervin Williams to Kako Village.According to the Opposition Leader, this is a clear abuse of the State’s resources.“Areas they’ve neglected and never been to in four years (while in office), now four ministers are going to the Upper Mazaruni on Cabinet/ministerial outreaches. That is not limiting expenditure and that is not a routine function of the government… Routine functions of the government mean ensuring that the light is on, water keeps flowing, that people get paid – the public servants, etc. – not with ministerial involvement but at the technical level. So they continue to use taxpayers’ money in this manner although the President claims that they should limit expenditure,” he asserted.To this end, Jagdeo posited that the monies spent by the caretaker coalition ministers will have to be repaid if the PPP gets into office since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) made it clear that the Government should be in a caretaker or interim role and the Head of State has even admitted that his administration is in an interim role with limited authority.“So any minister who goes on these activities that are not consistent with routine functioning of the government or make expenditure and the technical officers who approve these expenditure will have to repay the money. Because we’re gonna take legal actions against any minister and all of the technical officers who approved these expenses. We will either surcharge them or make it a charge against the State’s obligation to them or take legal action because this is an abuse of State resources,” Jagdeo stated.Concerns have been mounting over recent weeks over the coalition’s apparent disregard of the CCJ’s rulings and subsequent consequential orders by insisting that it cannot function with limited authority.In fact, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had received much flack after it was disclosed that he had commenced preparations for a new budget cycle. But on Friday, he explained that while the coalition may not be able to present a national budget this year, preparations are nevertheless being done.“In post-elections, you only have three months to prepare a budget, so you have to do the ground work now. And to end all the noise and so on, in the last elections when the present Government won (in 2015), there was a substantially prepared budget there and we used that. Otherwise, we would not have been able to present budget and even though, we had three months, we presented budget one and a half months ahead of schedule in 2015, and that could only be possible because ground work was done before,” Minister Jordan said.Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo