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FITUG proposes mechanism to discuss common concerns with GTUC

NAACIE General Secretary, Kenneth Joseph

The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) on Thursday- May Day 2014- extended an olive branch to the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) in the face of remote prospects for unity of the two bodies.

FITUG’s First Vice President, Komal Chand said if fence-mending efforts continue to fail, a mechanism should be set up for the two federations to interact on matters of common interest. “We contend that if this cannot materialise, then there should be established a Council or Committee comprising representatives of both FITUG and GTUC to provide an opportunity for collaboration between the two bodies and thus their affiliates,” said Chand who is also President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).

General Secretary of FITUG, Kenneth Joseph told the meagre gathering at the National Park that suggested that joint GTUC-FITUG meetings could address “important issues” including the future of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), occupational safety and health especially in the gold and diamond mining industry in the context of green jobs,  respect for employers, re-introduction of collective bargaining, protection of national and non-national employees and the reintroduction of agency shop fees.  “It is time we hold discussions on these and other matters in order to assist in the forward thrust of the members and the nation,” he said.

Several efforts by prominent overseas-based Guyanese trade unionists to forge unity between the two groupings have failed. A fractured trade union movement was quite obvious from the start of the parade when FITUG and its affiliates moved off well ahead of the GTUC and its members. FITUG held its rally in the National Park, GTUC at Critchlow Labour College and the Guyana Teachers Union at its headquarters.

Addressing the launch of Labour Week activities on April 27, GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis contended that trade unity did not necessarily mean that all unions should be under one umbrella because they have a right to self-determination and freedom of association. He argued that unity meant subjecting oneself to and being guided by universal principles, declarations, conventions, laws, charters and the Guyana Constitution.

“It means standing in solidarity with others when such are threatened or denied. The history of trade unionism in Guyana is replete with unions that have associated with federation of choice or chose not to associate. It is a right the GTUC holds sacred for itself and others. To those who interpret unity to mean that all trade unions need to be in one federation, they are reminded the act of being in one grouping does not constitute unity,” he added.

Established in 1988, FITUG was re-established in 1999 after GAWU and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) walked out of the GTUC to protest its condemnation of the police shooting of striking public servants. One year after the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) joined FITUG in 2005, that union’s leader, Carville Duncan, and then Peoples National Congress (PNC) Leader, Robert Corbin scuffled by pulling the GLU’s banner. Duncan was at the time leading his union’s contingent to the National Park rather than to GTUC’s headquarters.