MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE IN MINISTER OF LABOUR, MANSOOR NADIR--PRESS STATEMENT Friday 9 April 2010




SUMMARY:
• All Guyana is aware that, in the exercise of their constitutional and legal rights, the bauxite workers of BCGI proceeded on strike on 22 November 2009 and, in retaliation, BCGI issued suspension and dismissal letters to most of the workers, fifty-seven (57) of whom are union leaders;
• The Leader of the Opposition is a Constitutional Office and any benefits and facilities that are determined for this Office are intended for whoever is the incumbent Leader of the Opposition and not tailored for the particular person occupying the Office;
• The PNCR wants it to be in the public record that, although we are generally satisfied with the meritorious provisions of the Allied Health Professions Bill: Bill No. 15 of 2009, the Party is steadfastly opposed to the provisions of the Bill, such as is contained in Clauses 6, 7, 8, 10, 27 and 36, which continues the increasing and dangerous inclusion of dictatorial powers to be exercised by Ministers of the Government, in this case the Minister of Health.

MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE IN MINISTER OF LABOUR, MANSOOR NADIR

In a Press Release, dated Wednesday 7 April 2010, the PNCR advised that it had submitted to the National Assembly a motion of no confidence in the Minister of Labour, Mr. Mansoor Nadir. The motion calls, inter alia, on the National Assembly to express its lack of confidence in the Minister of Labour, Mr. Mansoor Nadir, over the manner in which he has failed to carry out his legal responsibilities for the settlement of trade disputes, particularly, the dispute between the G.B. & G.W.U. and BCGI, which is owned by the Russian company, RUSAL; his failure to represent the interest of workers as evidenced by his failure to speak out on the withdrawal of the check-off system for union dues of public servants associated with the GPSU; his open support for the withdrawal of the subvention approved by the National Assembly to the Critchlow Labour College; and, his failure and/or reluctance to ensure that the Government of Guyana honours the many conventions of the ILO to which Guyana is a signatory.

Among the other resolve clauses of the motion are, that the National Assembly,

• calls on the Government of Guyana to honour the many conventions of the ILO to which it is a signatory and also ensure that the labour Laws of the country are honoured by all employers more particularly, the RUSAL owned, Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc.;
• condemns BCGI’s unlawful, arbitrary and unilateral de-recognition of the G.B. & G.W.U. in violation of the Trade Union Recognition Act and calls on the Government of Guyana to present to the National Assembly the Terms of Agreement between the Government of Guyana and RUSAL whereby RUSAL was allowed to carry on bauxite and other business in Guyana;
• supports the demands of the G.B & G.W.U. for the reinstatement of the dismissed workers and the impartial and professional intervention in the dispute by the Chief Labour Officer; and,
• initiates an international appeal for support from all Parliaments in those countries in which RUSAL is presently carrying out any type of business operations as well as seek solidarity and support from all relevant international Organisations.

The Minister of Labour is charged with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Labour Act Cap. 98:01 and the Trade Union Recognition Act, Chapter 98:07. These Laws confer substantial powers on the Minister of Labour to take prompt and decisive action to settle cases of trade disputes and protect the rights of Guyanese workers. Section 37 (1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act further empowers the Minister to make regulations generally for carrying out the provisions of that Act, including, regulations prescribing anything which is to be prescribed under this Act. In addition, the Government of Guyana is a signatory to ILO Conventions Nos. 87, 98, 135, 154, 158 and 163, which impose the obligation on the Government to protect and advance the rights and interests of Guyanese workers.

The Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (G.B. & G.W.U.) is the recognised Trade Union for workers employed with the RUSAL owned Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI)’s at Kwakwani, Berbice. The Union, representing their members, entered into negotiations with the Company some years ago and there exists a Collective Labour Agreement (C.L.A), which is of three (3) years duration - beginning from 1st January 2008 and ending on the 31st December 2010. It should be noted that Section 28 (A) (1) of the Labour Amendment Act of 1984 makes every written Collective Labour Agreement legally enforceable, except where the Parties agree otherwise.

All Guyana is aware that, in the exercise of their constitutional and legal rights, the bauxite workers of BCGI proceeded on strike on 22 November 2009 and, in retaliation, BCGI issued suspension and dismissal letters to most of the workers, fifty-seven (57) of whom are union leaders. Some workers were, upon resumption of work and upon condition of being in continued employment, forced to sign a company prepared petition requesting the de-legitimization of the Union. On 1 December 2009, the company notified the Ministry of Labour, that it had arbitrarily terminated the Collective Labour Agreement and commenced the process of derecognising the legitimate union.

This issue has been ventilated in the media both locally and internationally. The Minister of Labour, who should be an impartial Mediator, publicly and openly sided with the foreign company by criticising the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (G.B. & G.W.U.) for allegedly agreeing to the termination of 75 workers, as claimed by BCGI, but denied by the Union. Meanwhile, he has failed and/or refused to use the powers vested in him by Law to resolve the trade dispute between the G.B. & G.W.U. and BCGI, despite letters from the Leader of the Opposition requesting his intervention, letters from the Union, and appeals by local and international Organisations. After five months the workers dispute remain unresolved and the Minister appears determined to initiate proceedings to derecognise the legitimate Union rather than resolve the trade dispute.

It is, therefore, appropriate that Guyanese are made aware of the enormous powers of the Minister of Labour under our existing Labour Laws. Section 4 of the Labour Act Cap. 98:01 of the Laws of Guyana delegates powers to the Minister of Labour in cases of trade disputes including:

a) inquiring into the causes and circumstances of the difference;
b) taking such steps, as to him, may seem expedient for the purpose of promoting a settlement of the difference; and,
c) with the consent of both parties to the difference, or of either of them, or without their consent, refer the matter for settlement to the arbitration of an arbitration tribunal consisting of one or more persons appointed by the Minister.

Section 6, of the said Labour Act gives the Minister of Labour the power to appoint an Advisory Committee in case of existing or apprehended trade disputes, which Committee shall inquire into the matters referred to it and shall report thereon and make such recommendations as it may deem expedient to the Minister.

The Trade Union Recognition Act, Chapter 98:07, provides for the improvement and promotion of industrial relations by the establishment of procedures for the certifying of trade unions as recognised majority unions and for the matters connected therewith. Section 23 (1) of this Act states that where a trade union obtains a certificate of recognition for workers comprised in a bargaining unit, the employer shall recognise that union, and the union and the employer shall bargain in good faith and enter into negotiations with each other for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Section 23 (3) of the said Act states that an employer who fails to comply with the provisions of subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine, and, in addition, to a fine for every day the breach continues until the employer has complied with such provisions.

Section 26 (1) of the said Act states that no worker shall be dismissed, or have his employment adversely affected, or his position altered by his employer, by reason of the circumstances that the worker,

(a) is an officer, delegate or member of a trade union; or,
(b) has for reasonable cause absented himself from work without leave after he has made an application for leave for the purpose of carrying out his duties under the Act as an officer or delegate of a trade union and such leave has been unreasonably refused or withheld.

If an employer contravenes any of the above provisions, that employer shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine, and, the magistrate making the order for conviction, shall also order that the worker be reimbursed any wage lost by him/her and direct that, notwithstanding any rule of law to the contrary, the worker be reinstated in his former position or in a similar position with terms and conditions of employment no less favourable.

It does not require any expertise in the Law to recognize that the conduct and actions of RUSAL, the owners of BCGI, are in violation of the Laws of Guyana. Furthermore, the conduct and actions of this company are not new, as they have employed similar tactics against workers in other countries in which they have been operating, including the Republic of Guinea. In Guinea, their Industrial Relations Manager was recently expelled by the Government following revelations of the company’s horrid and offensive labour practices in that country.

The Minister of Labour of Guyana has an obligation to equally protect the rights of the workers and ensure that the Laws of Guyana are not wilfully and wantonly disregarded. He has, however, persistently refused to carry out his obligation to protect the interest of Guyanese workers. The behaviour of this Minister and his predecessors, PPP Ministers of Labour, have been consistent in this regard. The incumbent Minister has a record of not representing the interest of the workers, as evidenced by his silence and/or refusal to speak against the PPP/C Administration’s unilateral cessation of the check-off system for union dues from public servants for the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU). He has remained silent over the abandonment of collective bargaining by the PPP/C Government in violation of ILO Conventions (Nos.87, 98, 135, 154, 158 and 163) to which Guyana is a signatory. The Minister has also openly in the National Assembly of the Parliament spoken in support of the wilful and malicious withholding of subventions approved by the Parliament for the Critchlow Labour College, followed by the refusal of the PPP/C Administration to make any further allocations to facilitate workers education at that College.

Such a dismal anti-workers record cannot inspire confidence of the workers of Guyana that the incumbent Minister would ever impartially represent their interest and ensure that the labour laws of Guyana are honoured.

The motion, moved by PNCR Shadow Minister of Labour, Mr. Basil Williams, M.P. and seconded by PNCR Chief Whip, Mr. E. Lance Carberry, M.P. will provide an opportunity for the Minister to be exposed. In the interest of the workers and for the sake of Guyana, the Minister should avoid such an embarrassment and, unlike his predecessor Ministers Gajraj and Ramsammy, do the right thing before any debate in the National Assembly.

RESIGN!

BENEFITS AND FACILITIES FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICE OF LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

The Leader of the Opposition (Benefits and Facilities) Bill 2009: Bill No. 16 of 2009 was finally passed unanimously in the National Assembly yesterday, Thursday 8 April 2010, almost a year after it was first presented in the National Assembly. The Bill merely sought to place in the laws of Guyana those benefits and facilities which presently apply to the holder of the Constitutional Office of Leader of the Opposition. The regularization of the facilities and benefits applicable to the Constitutional Office of the Leader of the Opposition was one of the subjects of negotiation, during the Constructive Engagement between the Leader of the Opposition and President Jagdeo in 2003, and was included in the Communiqué, signed on 6 May 2003 between President Jagdeo and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin. The details were subsequently finalized and were operationalised several years ago. The financial allocations were, therefore, reflected in the Budget Estimates presented to the Parliament every year.

The PNCR has consistently advocated the principled position that transparency requires that the benefits and facilities, for all Constitutional Office Holders, should be clearly spelt out in legislation so that the Office Holder and the public would not be at the mercy of the incumbent political directorate’s capricious determination of who should enjoy which benefits. In that context, the Party fully supported, as a step in the right direction, the Tabling of the Bill No. 16 of 2009 in the National Assembly.

The Leader of the Opposition is a Constitutional Office and any benefits and facilities that are determined for this Office are intended for whoever is the incumbent Leader of the Opposition and not tailored for the particular person occupying the Office. Therefore, when the incumbent Leader of the Opposition demits office, those benefits would apply for whoever is the succeeding Leader of the Opposition. It should, therefore, not be confused with the Bill passed by the National Assembly last year, which sought to provide for the retirement benefits of the President.

The original Bill presented to the National Assembly, Leader of The Opposition (Benefits And Facilities) Bill 2009: Bill No. 16 Of 2009, dated 30 April 2009, did not accurately include all of the benefits and facilities which were agreed and were being received by the incumbent Leader of the Opposition. It was, therefore, in order to correct that glaring deficiency that amendments to the Bill, dated 7 May 2009, were tabled by Mr. Winston Murray, CCH, M.P. and seconded by Mr. E. Lance Carberry, M.P.

The Party states categorically that, contrary to representations in the media and elsewhere, the amendments did not represent a request for any benefits and facilities that were not, at that time, being received by the incumbent Leader of the Opposition. In other words, there was no attempt by the PNCR to extend or add to the benefits and facilities then being received by the Leader of the Opposition.

The PNCR, therefore, objects to the deliberate, dishonest and malicious peddling of misinformation, in the media and elsewhere, claiming that the Party was seeking new and additional benefits for the Leader of the Opposition.

The Party is also amazed at remarks made by the Leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC) who appeared to be seeking cheap political mileage by claiming that his party was not consulted on the matter. It is known that the AFC was not in existence in 2003 when those discussions took place and, at a time when Mr. Raphael Trotman was an Executive member and Parliamentarian of the PNCR, and ought to have known of those discussions. Additionally, if the Leader of the Alliance for Change was doing his work in Parliament he ought to have noted the allocations in the Budget Estimates for several years, which provided him with an opportunity to raise any questions and concerns on the matter.

The PNCR had considered it our public duty to set out clearly the benefits and facilities for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, in a Press Statement dated 7 May 2009. Those details are still available on the PNCR web site. That statement spelt out that the salary, vacation allowance and other benefits received by the Leader of the Opposition were equivalent to that of a Cabinet Minister. The other facilities relate to furnished office accommodation and staff associated with the functioning of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

THE ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONS BILL 2009

The Allied Health Professions Bill: Bill No. 15 of 2009 provides for:

 The registration of members of allied health professions, supplementary to the medical profession;
 The regulation of the practice of allied health professions and allied health services;
 The maintenance of professional standards for allied health professionals and health services; and
 The training of members of those professions and services.

This Bill was committed to a Special Select Committee of the National Assembly, prior to its Second Reading. Therefore, the presentation of the Report of that Committee triggered the Second Reading Debate in the National Assembly yesterday, Thursday 8 April 2010.

The PNCR is satisfied that the regulatory provisions of the Bill are necessary for improving the functioning of the practice of allied health professions in Guyana. Accordingly, the Party submitted written recommendations to the Committee for modifications which would enhance the provisions of the Bill and participated in the Debate in its support.

However, the PNCR wants it to be in the public record that, although we are generally satisfied with the meritorious provisions of the Bill, the Party is steadfastly opposed to the provisions of the Bill, such as is contained in Clauses 6, 7, 8, 10, 27 and 36, which continues the increasing and dangerous inclusion of dictatorial powers to be exercised by Ministers of the Government, in this case the Minister of Health.

The record of the PPP/C Administration, in the misuse and abuse of such powers as well as their questionable morality, does not give comfort to the public. Examples include the manipulation of the Ethnic Relations Commission; the failure to properly constitute the Integrity Commission and the blatant attempts to use its powers as an instrument for the persecution of opponents; the insistence on including an alleged child molester as their nominee on the Rights of the Child Commission although he has not been incontrovertibly cleared of such allegations; the public attempts to renege on promises and assurances of the Government, with regard to safeguards in the Casino Gambling Bill; etc.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 9 April 2010