MINISTER Simona Broomes, who has arguably been amongst the hardest working ministers in this new administration, is being removed from her Labour portfolio.This news comes as a shock, since the trade union movement and employers who desire to comply with the rule of law never expressed dissatisfaction in the minister’s performance, neither was the opinion of the trade union community sought in relation to her performance. Were our opinion sought, disagreement would have been expressed in the minister’s removal.
Although the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) initially took her appointment with some degree of caution, this minister has proven beyond a shadow of any doubt that, once she received her instrument to office, she was prepared to discharge her duty without fear, favour or ill-will. Her record of achievements within that short time has been one of acclaim. Workers and employers committed to the rule of law had a trusted ally in her.
The workers of this country have lost someone who was prepared to champion justice. Responsible employers have lost a minister who was prepared to work with them in upholding their responsibilities. Renegade employers and the self-serving will rejoice over her removal. Guyana, as a whole, continues to suffer the consequences of gut-feeling decision-making.
No doubt, Minister Broomes has the capacity to shine in her new appointment. At the same time, Minister Volda Lawrence is yet to act consistent with the Labour Laws, six months after taking office, and issue letters to start the arbitration proceedings with the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) and the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU), which is not only the lawful course, but one she advocated for when in opposition.
This grievance is more than six years old.
This nation needs to ask the searching question: ‘Is there any seriousness being brought to bear on how the business of the state is being addressed?’ This is the first time in the history of Guyana that Labour stands alone.
As we prepare to celebrate 50 years of political independence, it need not be forgotten that it was the trade union movement under Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow who, in 1905 and 1926 (two significant landmarks), started the 20th century fight for the right to self-determination, which included freedom of association, right to collective bargaining, one man one vote (universal adult suffrage), internal self-government, among others.
The trade union movement laid the foundation for the mass-based political parties that came from 1950 (PPP), and for their leaders, namely: Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. The GTUC, in 1963, sent a delegation to the United Nations to argue the case for Guyana’s independence. This delegation comprised Egbert Bolton and Cleveland Charran.
On 1st May 2015, the GTUC shared the Labour Day platform with the APNU+AFC, to speak to the workers of this country. The trade union movement made it possible for the political leadership, and every single person who sits in the National Assembly, to so do.
Through secondhand information, the trade union movement learnt of Minister Broomes’s removal from the Labour Department. Likewise, it is being learnt that Minister Keith Scott is to replace her. It should be said that, under the presidency of Forbes Burnham, Desmond Hoyte and Cheddi Jagan, Labour was consulted and advised on the choice of Minister of Labour. It should further be said that this is the first time in the nation’s history that there is no ministry that has the name Labour, even moreso, particularly when there is talk about a Green Economy, of which the ILO Core Labour Standards form the foundation.
This nation is witnessing the loud mouthing of concepts like ‘inclusionary democracy’ (Article 13 in the Guyana Constitution) and ‘national unity’, but the question needs to asked: How can this be achieved when there is contempt for these principles, instruments and institutions?