At a time when concerns are being raised about insufficient government funding for the Critchlow Labour College, Guyana Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo urged the labour movement to help train workers for the oil and gas sector.
Speaking at the weekend at the Clerical and Commercial Workers’ Union’s (CCWU) 4th Triennial Delegates Conference, he said trade unions must rise to the challenge of new and innovative period in Guyana’s history.
“Your union has a responsibility to face up to the new challenge that as Guyana is gearing to become an oil and gas producing-state…It brings with it a new challenge that you have to have a trained workforce who no longer can do the things they did in an ‘anyhow’ manner,” he said. He said the time for unpunctuality and irregularity and delivery of poor quality service must be replaced by more discipline, greater productivity, more commitment and the ability to retrain and re-tool themselves in areas such as petroleum studies and service delivery.
“The oil and gas industry will produce workers who will demand services of all types- to deliver food, hygienic standards so that the challenge will be there to gear its membership to deliver the commitment,” he said.
ExxonMobil, the American oil giant, is preparing to pump oil from offshore Guyana by 2020.
The Prime Minister urged delegates to recognise the long fight for workers rights in the trade union and political arena such as the Political Affairs Committee and its successor People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
“When you have compulsory union recognition you take that very seriously… the right to collective bargaining to discuss with your bosses, based on agreement what your entitlements are and what your benefits are, have been won by struggle and should not be taken away,” he said.
Before Nagamootoo’s address, CCWU President Sherwood Clarke called on government and the Guyana Trades Union Congress to end their bickering over the insufficient subvention to the Critchlow Labour College (CLC). “I wish to seize the opportunity to plead with the government to accommodate the labour movement in dialogue with a view to amicably resolving the issue of an annual subvention for the college,” he said.
Expressing concern about the situation at the CLC, Clarke said that institution no longer confines itself to trade union education. “It is exceeding more broad-based education opportunities for all, including government workers. I am sure that it is in keeping with the government’s programme which is premised on the conclusion that the door to national prosperity and an end to poverty is through education,” he said.
The Critchlow Labour College (CLC) has refused an estimated GYD$15 million subvention because it was less than half of what the previous government had provided to that institution.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan said that is all government could afford and other trade unions’ education initiatives are also receiving grants that would amount to more than GYD$30 million.
General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Unions Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis announced on Sunday that the CLC was allocated a GYD$5 million subvention in 2015, but when the GYD$15 million was allocated in this year’s budget that labour and adult education institution refused to draw down the funds.