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Opposition cries “discrimination” in union allocations, Minister says small unions need help too

GAWU President, Komal Chand.

Opposition member and President of the Guyana Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU), Komal Chand cried “discrimination” in subvention allocations to local unions.

The Member of Parliament, during scrutiny of the sums for the Ministry of Social Protection, pointed out that Minister of Finance Winston Jordan announced  in his budget speech weeks earlier that $11m would be allocated for labour unions.

Chand noted,however, that in the estimates being discussed it only shows about $9m for the unions and asked for an explanation. He was then informed by the Social Protection Minister, Volda Lawrence that the $9m will be disaggregated into three sections-the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) will receive $500,000 each, while other small unions will share $8m. She said the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) will also receive $2m.

Chand then asked the Minister to explain the disparity in the sums allocated to FITUG when it has a membership of 30,000 plus persons of affiliated unions, while the “TUC living out GPSU, which is not an active member in the TUC with a membership of under 10,000 members of affiliate unions are allocated $8m.”

He asked whether it is “not discrimination” given the disparity in membership and allocations. Minister Lawrence responded however that “discrimination” would apply here, “depending on which lens you look.” She said that the smaller unions need greater support in their training programs to make them stronger. “We must allocate a large amount of money to help several smaller unions…” the minister proposed, “as opposed those with a larger membership.” She said, “If you’re to use that argument we should have given FITUG less and give the smaller unions more.”

Chand said he was not talking about unions, but rather the umbrella bodies before maintaining that the allocations are discriminatory. The issue was closed off when the Speaker noted that an answer was given about the allocations.

Chand then moved on to ask how the allocations to the unions will be done as the law requires this based on membership. Given that some unions have not been audited for decades, he questioned what yardstick will be used to allocate the money.

The minister said a monitoring and evaluating unit was established at the ministry to peruse the training programs the unions were asked to create before monies are disbursed.