GLU 6th Triennial Delegates Congress

Speech Presented at the Opening Session of the Guyana Labour Union’s 6th Triennial Delegates Congress on Wednesday 27th October 2010 by Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, Chairman of the Private Sector Commission.

I am pleased to address you here today at the opening session of your 6th Triennial Delegates Congress.  I have noted that the Theme of your Congress is “Facing the Challenges of Climate Change for Workers’ Progress”. This is certainly timely in light of the country’s new development trajectory which is based on a Low Carbon Development Strategy.

The Guyana Labour Union has in recent times changed the landscape of industrial relations by adopting a new social contract with employers in which there is co-operation between the employer and the union for the ultimate benefit of both the organisation and the employees.

As we in the private sector understand it, this new social contract aims to increase productivity of the workers and bases wage increases and other benefits on the increased profitability of the organisation.  

This new approach by the union aims for an environment of co-operation between the union and the employers instead of the old adversarial approach and we are pleased that so many private sector companies have entered into this contract with the union.

 It must be ultimately understood that the function of a union is to improve the working conditions of the workers but it is a novel approach for a union to involve itself in the welfare and profitability of the organisation as being central to the interests of the employees.

This novel approach by the Employees Union to have a two-pronged approach to collective bargaining is unique.  The union agrees an across-the-board wage increase with other increases tied to an incentive scheme in which attendance and productivity are key to increases in emoluments.  This recognizes the true role that workers play in increasing the productivity of the organisation and rightly rewards them for such increases.  We can only hope that other unions will adopt this approach and that they will have the co-operation of the employers.

Performance based emoluments are enhancers of key business drivers for example:

1. Efficiency.
2. Market Share.
3. Shareholder value.
4. Return on investment.
5. Valuation of the institution’s Shares and many other drivers.

The union’s role as a protector of employees’ interests must not be forgotten and one of the causes which our unions in Guyana must espouse is the paucity of human resource professionals in many organisations.  But we must begin this process by having a degree programme in HRM at the University.

It is important for companies to employ persons who are trained to manage the welfare of the workers as integral to the welfare of the company and many of our organisations do not.  This is a short-coming which must be remedied with the urging of our unions as well as our private sector bodies and Government institutions to encourage good labour practice at the level of management.

The HR Director is a key factor for enhanced worker performance and provides a major resource for making management more accountable,unfortunately many HR managers sometimes sit on the wrong side of the fence in a given situation.

Labour unions play an important role in the tripartite social compact between government, employers and the unions.  We in the private sector have viewed the current developments in the arena of labour unions in Guyana with much sadness at the seeming inability of the unions to present a united front and to develop collectively on HR issues nationally.

The Guyana Labour Union as the oldest labour union in Guyana must certainly play a part in the healing of the rifts among the unions.  For civil society to function as it should, there must be cohesion among the unions and we will continue to advocate for this end which should be the goal of every unionised worker.  

The entire labour movement is weakened when there is no united front presented by the unions and the interests of employees  are jeopardised and compromised. Your first and foremost responsibility is to the employees and as Chairman of the PSC I would like to see HR development occupying the agenda of all labour unions nationally.We must de-politicise ourselves and represent the issues and not sides.You have one side, the employees’side.

Finally, let me say that the private sector fully supports the unions of Guyana and joins hands with them to strive together for the development of Guyana.

Unions have traditionally been at odds with employers but, as the Guyana Labour Union has shown, it is possible for them to be partners in the fight for higher profits, increased productivity and the ultimate development of the country.

I wish you great success in the deliberations of your Congress and in the continuing struggle for the betterment of the workers of Guyana and for the nation as a whole.

Thank you.

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