Guyana: The Ministry of Labour views with serious concerns the statements from the General Secretary, Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union, Lincoln Lewis, regarding the illegal strike activities taking place at the Linden Utility Coop Society Ltd. (LUCSL). The Ministry of Labour must again reemphasize that from the outset of the dispute, it became involved and engaged the Management of the LUCSL and the Union on this matter.
The inaugural conciliatory meeting on October 03, 2022, concluded with the Management of LUCSL undertaking to discuss the revised Terms of Resumption with the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the LUCSL and, thereafter, communicate its position to the Ministry and the Union. To date, the Ministry has received no response from the Management. The Ministry cannot be blamed for the incompetence of Management in not consulting or informing the IMC of the decision arrived at with regard to the revised Terms of Resumption.
We are, however, appalled that Union can accuse the Ministry, Chief Labour Officer, and Minister of Labour of not being proactive in addressing the dispute. We stand by our record of early and proactive intervention and preventative strike action in industrial relations.
This particular action is being taken in breach of the Public Utility Undertakings and Public Health Services (Arbitration) Act (Essential Services (Arbitration) Act), Cap.54:01. It is also not just in keeping with good industrial relations norms and practices. The Ministry is therefore highlighting this breach and the illegal activity on the part of the Union. The Union is now seeking coverage from the Ministry to concretize the said illegality and sanction actions that are unfavourable to the interest of good industrial relations.
High-handed actions on the part of either Employers or Trade Unions do not bode well for good industrial relations. In this case, the Union has acted precipitously by calling a strike without first exhausting its grievance to either the Management or the Ministry.
The ministry, therefore, find it necessary to call on the Union to bring an end to its illegal strike action, restore normalcy, and allow for either direct negotiations at a bilateral level or conciliation to take place. We cannot and would not countenance nor accept illegality. While we made an effort before to end this dispute amicably, despite its illegality, we are now forced to take a position given the unreasonable, unsubstantiated, and unwarranted attack on the Ministry and other players in industrial relations in this country on the part of the Union. We will not be intimidated by the Union or anyone seeking to foist their will on us and stand by our position of principle and on the basis of promoting good industrial relations practice in the country.
Finally, Lewis must understand that he is exposing the workers and his Union to serious disciplinary consequences as a result of these illegal activities, such as deduction of wages and other forms, including the termination of their services. Instructively, the Public Utility Undertakings and Public Health Services (Arbitration) Act (Essential Services (Arbitration) Act), Cap.54:01, obligates that they report the dispute to the Minister (Section 12 of the said Act) and Section 19 of the said Act.
The Ministry reiterated that it is committed to, encourages, and willingly facilitates improved industrial practices, conditions of work, and safe work environments for all workers. We remain available to assist parties in reaching a mutual agreement in the interest of all sides.