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Controversy emerges over Chairmanship of Trade Union Recognition Board

Justice Claudette La Bennett

Controversy has emerged over the appointment of the Chairman of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board (TURCB) on grounds that there has not been consultation.

Hours after Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo announced that Justice Claudette La Bennett would be chairing the body, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) challenged the decision.

FITUG Executive Member, Komal Chand told Demerara Waves Online News that although his grouping had submitted a nominee at the request of government that does not amount to consultation. He is worried that government’s decision to appoint La Bennett could result in problems down the road.

“The most representative body of the workers is FITUG and FITUG was no consulted and so it follows so there is a breach of the law and therefore one can conclude that the appointment of the chairperson was not in order and there can be problems arising from her appointment,” he said.

The Trade Union Recognition Act states that the Chairman shall be appointed by the minister after consultation with such associations as in his opinion are the most representative associations of trade unions and employers.

For his part, General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) , Lincoln Lewis said while his organisation has not been consulted face-to-face, an undisclosed name had been submitted to government. Lewis said his major priority was getting the board in the TURCB. “There was no consultation on who would have been the person but has happened, we had submitted a name,” he said. Lewis said there was no meaningful consultations.  “While we had not had that face-to-face engagement, we were informed last week that they had proposed La Bennett

He said the appointment of the board was definitely overdue and so it should meet urgently to address union recognition issues facing the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU). “What we want is for this board to be up and running, we didn’t expect that the government, anyone of them, that they would have accepted the TUC’s nomination,” said Lewis.

The GTUC’s representatives on the board are Lewis and General Secretary of the Postal and Telecommunication Workers Union (PTWU), Eslyn Harris. Gerry Goolsarran would be representing the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry (CAGI), the employers’ organisation.

The Prime Minister hailed the steps that were being taken to re-establish the TURCB, saying it is a “very important feature of the struggles of the working people of Guyana” in ensuring that trade unions are certified and recognized as the bargaining agents.

“It means that if this body were to function effectively and efficiently, there should be no poaching, there should be no renegade trade unions trying to impose themselves on the workers. Workers, under this law, have a right to choose by procedures established, including a poll, what would be the union of their choice,” said Nagamootoo.