GAWU takes protest to Labour Department

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Some 30 members of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) staged a picketing exercise outside of the Department of Labour.

GAWU said the activity was intended to register their concerns regarding the functioning of the Labour Department, which has been taking an extensive time before matters referred to its attention can be addressed.

According to the Union, over the last two years, they have had several matters taking an unusually lengthy period before they can be concluded.

In fact, the Union, more than once, has spoken and written to the Department about several matters which are under its purview but remain inconclusive at this time.

Despite commitments to have those matters being considered they remain outstanding, GAWU said.

It was just recently that the Department concluded a matter which had been pending for several months, this followed several reminders and follow-ups by the Union.

“The seeming lethargic functioning of the Department for the Union, and more so the workers, is most frustrating. It in effect could be seen as rendering the procedural agreements of unions ineffective as the Department is the next step if workers organizations and employers are unable to reach an agreement at the bilateral level,” GAWU said.

It noted that if matters remain stuck at the level of the Department, it, therefore, means that justice for the workers is essentially denied.

“As the arm of the State charged with upholding workers rights and protecting them from exploitative and unscrupulous practices, this cannot be seen as a healthy development,” GAWU said.

“As a nation which can rightly boast of proud history of workers struggle which gave rise to a host of workers rights, the Department functioning can only be seen as a retrogressive step which undermines our several advancements.”

The Union said, most recently, recognizing that several matters remain unaddressed wrote Senior Social Protection Minister, Amna Ally seeking to engage her with a view to bringing about some movement.

“Dismayingly, the Minister has, so far, not even acknowledged our correspondence. We are aware that a perennial cry we have heard from the Department relates to a lack of personnel and skilled personnel to say the least.”

Indeed, our Union which has been interacting with the now Department for many years shares the view that there is a dearth of personnel which undoubtedly is hamstringing it’s performance. We have recognized that this has reached acute proportions since the Department was demoted from a Ministry almost five years ago.

The Union said, while they believe that the Department is probably doing it’s best given its limited resources, human and otherwise, vis-à-vis its manifold responsibilities, it is incumbent on our policy makers to arrest the situation and to meaningfully address shortcomings or shortages that may exist.

“The Labour Department, which we contend should really be a Ministry, plays a significant and important role and it serves as a refuge for our nation’s workers.”

“It is most important that those who are in charge recognize this reality and provide the necessary assistance and wherewithal to ensure that the Department can fully and adequately function and play its role.”