Saturday, January 3, 2009

Consultation is enshrined in Constitution - Opposition parties

Kaieteur News news item, Wednesday 31 December 2008

Consultation is enshrined in Constitution - Opposition parties
December 31, 2008 | By knews |
Filed Under News
By Gary Eleazar

Robert Corbin
Constitutionality, consultation, interpretation, definition of law as
against applied as law and application of Parliamentary Standing Orders,
among other technical jargons, were spewed for hours on Monday leaving the
speaker unable to pronounce on whether the Trade Union Recognition
(Amendment) Bill 2008 should be proceeded with at that sitting.
A decision was taken to have the proposed piece of legislation deferred and
this was in light of the fact that the Opposition parties had all signaled
their intention to boycott participation in the debate of the Bill, given
that it was a breach of the rules of debating a piece of legislation.
According to Robert Corbin, leader of the People's National Congress Reform,
the Parliamentary Standing Orders clearly states that there must be a
six-day hiatus between the first and second reading of any Bill in the
National Assembly.
He pointed out that the Bill was first tabled on December 22, and that the
Minister of Labour was seeking to have the Bill read one week later, on
December 29.
Corbin said that during that period there were three holidays and according
to the Interpretation of Clauses Act, during that six-day period holidays
were to be excluded hence it was only after three days that the Minister was
seeking to have the legislation passed in the National Assembly.
This was challenged by Anil Nandlall of the Peoples Progressive Party Civic,
who told the House that the Interpretation of Clauses Act was referring to
the written law and this was only those that were assented to by the
President and the Parliamentary Standard Orders.
This argument prompted a further challenge from AFC chairman, Raphael
Trotman, who said that it was provided for under the Act as applied law.

Basil Williams
Everall Franklin of the Guyana Action Party also contributed to what was now
a lively exchange of interpretations. He stated that whatever the meaning of
the various provisions, the delay was meant for consultation and this was
never done. Further, the concept of consultation was enshrined in the
supreme law of the land-- the Constitution of Guyana.
According to the Opposition members the proposed piece of legislation will
affect trade unions and as such the members should be consulted. It was
pointed out that the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has not been
consulted with.
According to Basil Williams of the PNCR the GTUC is recognized as the legal
majority representative body by the International Labour Organisation.
This view did not seem to hold water with the Labour Minister, who during a
question and answer phase in the House, said that he was unaware of such a
position held by the GTUC.
Despite this the GTUC, via a letter that was copied to Prime Minister Samuel
Hinds, and the Minister of Labour and circulated to the media, stated that
it was not consulted on the issue.
According to the document signed by the president of that body, Gillian
Burton, "It has been brought to the attention of the GTUC that the Trade
Union Recognition (amendment) Bill 2008, Bill No. 25 of 2008, was introduced
in the Parliament on Monday December 22, 2008 in the midst of the holiday
season...We have been further informed that the Government proposes to
proceed with the second reading today (Monday) in Parliament...
"It is rather unfortunate that the Guyana Trades Union Congress has not to
date received a copy of this proposed law that has far reaching implications
for the trade union movement and workers in Guyana....In the circumstances
we are requesting that the reading of the Bill be postponed to provide an
opportunity for the Guyana Trades Union Congress to be consulted and a copy
of the said Bill be forwarded to us."
After the commotion in the National Assembly which included an impromptu
suspension to allow the Speaker to consider the various proposals, a
decision was taken to have the second reading deferred.
Williams, who is also Shadow Labour Minister, has already stated in a recent
interview with this newspaper that that the Trade Union Recognition
(Amendment) Bill 2008 was seeking to undermine the Guyana Trades Union
Congress (GTUC).
According to Williams, the legislation closely resembles a previous Bill
that was tabled by the People's Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) in 2006 but
was pulled from the House amidst a lambasting for its consequences.
Williams said that this time around the only thing that is different is the
language. It is intended to remove the GTUC from the Trade Union's
Representation Certification Board.
He added also that the legislation will marginalise and destroy small unions
whilst destroying the aspirations of Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow for a single
National Association of Trade Unions.
He said, too, that the amendment will seek to repeal sections of the
Principal Act which previously guaranteed a role for the GTUC, which
according to Williams, is the only umbrella body recognised by the
International Labour Organisation.
The Shadow Minister emphasised that the legislation is in essence seeking to
have the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) become the
union to be consulted as it relates to the bargaining process.
Clause Four of the amendment calls for the Minister of Labour to consult the
most representative organisations of workers and employers in the
appointment of the chairman of the Representation Certification Board as
against the requirement to consult with the most representative associations
of trade unions and employers.
According to Williams, it (the legislation) will remove the GTUC from the
Board that approves the certification of small unions.
Another clause in the proposed legislation will allow a union to strike only
if a board has not determined the union's application for certification
within four months of the application.
Previously, a union could strike if its application was not determined
within a period of two months.

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