…concerned that Govt using Union for PR purposes
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, is debunking reports that there is bad blood between his party and the Guyana Agriculture and Workers Union (GAWU). At the same time, however, he noted that recent statements from union officials are cause for concern.
In the aftermath of a meeting between the union and the Government, GAWU President Komal Chand was quoted affirming his pleasure with the meeting’s outcome but this has since prompted calls from sugar workers for Chand to resign.
According to the sugar workers Chand and more so GAWU in their view did not make adequate representation on their behalf.
Commenting on the issue during a press conference, Jagdeo on Saturday affirmed that while the Union went into the meeting and got nothing, the Government got an opportunity at public relations (PR).
“GAWU has struggled a very long time. And I’ve always supported their struggle. And GAWU will be there in the forefront of the struggle for workers’ rights in the future. The PPP will always support their struggle,” he related, during his press conference. “I don’t know about any conflict and this contrived thing. I saw Chronicle (newspapers) has been pushing this thing about a conflict between the PPP and GAWU. In fact, they had a headline to that effect. There’s nothing of the sort.”
“What I can say is that the same support we share with the Union,” Jagdeo continued. “The sugar workers’ pay their dues, they determine their leadership, they’re free to elect their leaders and they’re free to call for their removal anytime. That is not the PPP business. Some newspaper article was sold by some as the PPP’s position.”
Armed with a release from the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP) in which Chand was quoted expressing satisfaction with the government’s stance, Jagdeo read excerpts of the release.
“I just read a part of the press release. Do I have a concern about the government using the union for PR purposes, the answer is yes,” Jagdeo said. “The government got a huge PR thing out of this. Listen what they said. After more than two hours of discussions, the parties were able to find common ground and the unions agreed to fully cooperate with the government to find a solution which can benefit all stakeholders.”
But Jagdeo questioned what this solution was, noting that the union has not clarified this. And since GAWU subsequently stated that it did not agree with the part payment of severance, Jagdeo questioned what this common ground could be?
The General Secretary made it clear that he had an issue with the Chand’s quote, as revealed by the MOTP.
The Opposition Leader said he has an issue when the President (of GAWU) says “we have listened and we are satisfied that you are concerned with the issues. We are ready to work along with the Government to explore the options and we are going to give our best to see the situation out. You are right that there are no winners in this and we are willing… We are certainly pleased with this meeting. This is the first meeting [for the year] we have been able to have with the Government and we believe that the meeting took place in a positive atmosphere and we recognise that the Government itself pays attention and I think that it is a good beginning….From GAWU, we are very pleased and it spells out that the future engagement are in the interest of the workers, the industry and the country,” Chand said.
“What’s the future engagement? Hiring back the 7000 workers? Paying them their severance? Getting the subsidies and land for them? Getting more training, loans for them? What’s this agreement? That bothers me. How can you find them genuine when they just sent home 7000 of your members?” Jagdeo questioned, while adding that “this didn’t come from GAWU. I believe GAWU as a Union has been fighting a very long time.”
He said further “I have personal issues with these sorts of statements. Because it means that all that has gone before, you find them still a good partner to talk with when they decimated half your membership? What is it if not a PR exercise? We’re not going to show up for a meeting to satisfy Granger’s PR when they don’t mean anything. That is what happened here.”
Jagdeo stressed that the party will continue to support the Union, whose executives he said included “good, strong, young, bright leaders”.
Asked directly whether there was a rift between the party and Chand, he emphasized that the party had none.