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GTUC says APNU broke promise on approach to money laundering law amendments

THRASHING IT OUT: GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis and APNU Shadow Labour Minister, Basil Williams discussing their differences over the coalition’s broken promise.

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) on Sunday accused A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) of breaking its promise to tie its parliamentary support for passage of amendments to the financial crimes law to getting government to re-issue arbitration letters for the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI).

The High Court had ruled that Minister of Labour, Dr. Nankishore Gopaul should send fresh letters to the company for arbitration proceedings for higher wages and salaries and the firing of more than 50 workers almost four years ago.

Addressing a gathering near the Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow statue in Parliament Building compound to mark the launch of Labour Week, GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis disagreed with Opposition Leader, David Granger’ position at the General Council of the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) that it was too late to link the two matters.

GTUC first lobbied APNU for support in January, 2014.

Lewis appealed to Granger to make re-issuing of the arbitration letters a conditionality for passage amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act (AML/CFT) “if he is really and truly interested in workers as he claims.” “GTUC challenges the Leader of the Opposition to do this one thing for Labour. It is within his capacity to do, it is achievable,” Lewis told an audience that included PNCR Chairman and APNU Shadow Labour Minister, Basil Williams

The GTUC President urged the Opposition Leader, whose APNU has made workers’ welfare its platform for 2014, to match his words with action. “If politicians cannot do the little things, are we to believe that they are serious about achieving the big things?,” said Lewis.

GTUC President, Leslie Gonsalves , who is also a top official of the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU), raised the issue on Saturday at the PNCR’s General Council where he was told by Granger that it was too late to take action on the GTUC’s request.

An angry Lewis recalled APNU saying “they will pursue the matter providing that we go out there and put it in the public domain and they will take it up from there and we have done that.”  After GTUC’s eight public statements were issued, the GTUC boss claimed that “immediately after that what they started to do was to vacillate to say that there is no nexus between the Bill and what we are asking for.”

Lewis lashed back by contending that the AML/CFT was about protecting the rights of a number of persons like the issue at RUSAL/ BCGI.

The PNCR General Secretary moments later explained to Demerara Waves Online News that APNU was unable to take action because the GTUC’s request was made only earlier this year at a time when government was falsely claiming that the opposition amendments to the AML/CFT Act were made at the last minute and the two issues were unrelated. “I think it was discussed and generally it was felt by all relevant stakeholders that really it would not have helped the situation to tag on yet another issue which they would have said would have come at the eleventh hour,” he said.

Williams called on trade unions to do their work instead of relying on politicians and wondered whether the GTUC was now unable to deal with the issue and was now asking the politicians to address it. “That’s a trade union matter. The trade unions must do their work.  If they can’t do their work, they must come out publicly and say that. That’s nonsense,” he said when told that the GTUC felt APNU has abandoned a section of its constituency.

The GTUC General Secretary dismissed Williams’ position on grounds that the matter was now a political one because the Labour Minister has failed to act. “The issue here is that we have done our work. It is now a political issue when a Minister has decided that he is not going to honour the commitment going to the court then it becomes political. Who voted for them? The citizens of this country voted for them and if the laws are being transgressed, they have a responsibility to protect it,” said Lewis.