By Ramona LuthiThe Regional Vice Chairman of Region Three — Essequibo Islands/West Demerara, Sheik Ayube, is accusing the Regional Executive Officer (REO) of the Local Government Department (LGD), Shameer Shahid, of acting out of his jurisdiction, of intentionally blocking Opposition- run Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC) from fulfilling their mandates, and of not paying staff.“…any time that the NDCs attempt to execute their programme or their spending, they find they are being stymied by the Local Government Department. The Head of the Local Government Department (is Shameer Shahid],” Ayube told Guyana Times in a telephone interview.Region Three Regional Vice Chairman Sheik AyubeAyube, Head of the Local Government Committee, explained that according to the law, all of the NDCs countrywide are to be guided by Chapter 28:02 of the Local Government Act, which provides direction and specifications on how the entity should operate.Ayube said that, every year, each NDC would budget “for what they would normally want for the year”; and once that budget is passed, the entity has “all rights to execute that Budget, without any interference (from) the Local Government Department of the RDC [Regional Democratic Council]”.However, he noted, over the past two years, this has been incredibly difficult because of Shahid. The most recent incident, he said, relates to two labourers attached to the Uitvlugt NDC being left unpaid.“I spoke to the REO on Wednesday last, and he showed me vouchers that were prepared to clear these people for January month. Lo and behold, the local Government Department is saying to the Overseer of the Tuschen/Uitvlugt NDC that he cannot find any document as it relates to these payments. I contacted back the REO’s secretary, and she confirmed that the document was sent to the Local Government Department,” Ayube detailed.He highlighted other incidents wherein he accused Shahid of abusing his power: “I would like to give you some examples. The Wakenaam NDC had budgeted to buy long boots for the Council of that specific NDC. They went ahead and purchased the long boots, (and) for a number of months, the Head of the Local Government Department did not pass that voucher,” he explained, while noting that it is protocol for the vouchers to be signed off by the RDC’s Local Government Department.The Regional Vice Chairman relayed that the explanation provided by Shahid for not signing the vouchers was that “long boots is only purchased for the work committee.”“We gotta understand that Wakenaam is an (agricultural) area and each council comes from a respective constituency, so they are expected to perform their duties in an effective way by visiting the area,” Ayube explained.“He [Shahid] is infringing on the rights of the NDC to operate independently,” Ayube sternly asserted.He noted that the REO has not been signing off on vouchers for council members to travel to attend statutory meetings.“The NDC would budget for travelling for their respective councillors (from) Wakenaam and Leguan. Again, over a long period of time, he’s not signing the vouchers for the people to [receive their funds] for travelling. He’s impeding on the attendance of the meeting. Again, he is acting out of his jurisdiction,” Ayube explained.This publication was told that within the regions there is a “CRIP (Community Roads Improvement Project)” programme, employment and supervision of which fall directly under the NDC.The NDC is required to report to the Region on the performance of each staff member on a monthly basis. However, Ayube claims that the REO has again stepped out of his jurisdiction.“What happened in Region 3, the DREO [Deputy REO] within the Local Government Department went into these NDCs and conducted interviews [for] who should be employed and who should not be employed. Now they are acting out of their jurisdiction. They have no right. That is the right of the NDC to employ, (to) interview,” the Regional Vice Chairman said.In addition, Guyana Times was told that as of late, the RDC, at the behest of Shahid, has imposed a condition wherein employees who are attached to the “CRIP” programme within NDCs cannot work elsewhere.“These CRIP people work 4 times a week and their monies are limited, so they seek employment other ways. They [RDC] have no jurisdiction, no right, no authority to impose that (condition) on the NDC.”According to Ayube, the issue has been reported several times at the level of the RDC statutory meeting, but nothing has been done to rectify the situation.Ayube also said he has observed that only the NDCs run by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are apparently being hassled by Shahid.“I’m of the opinion that this is a planned something, because…in Region 3, most of the NDCs are run by the PPP/C. I think something has been put in place to allow the NDC to look bad where the NDC is not the contributing factor to most of these things that are happening out there… Everything is being stymied, everything is set to make [the PPP NDC] look bad, at the Local Government Department of the RDC,” he posited.Ayube is calling on Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan to intervene and have the matter rectified as soon as possible.“I’m calling on the Minister to put things right!” he declared.Efforts made by this publication to contact Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, and Regional Executive Officer of the Local Government Department, Shameer Shahid, proved futile.
…urges Govt to re-establish Labour MinistryGeneral Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis, in delivering another candid address at this year’s May Day Rally held at the National Park on Monday, urged Government to re-establish the Labour Ministry and restore collective bargaining in its entirety.President of GTUC, Coretta McDonaldLewis said that ministry is important for shaping and executing labour policies that affect all Guyanese workers — past, present and potential.The veteran trade unionist also called on President David Granger to restore collective bargaining in the public sector, and return the agency shop to public service unions.General Secretary of GTUC, Lincoln Lewis“Our unified voices are today raised, calling for these changes to be manifest…Trust that these requests today will not be a challenge for the President, given his stated commitment…,” Lewis remarked.Making reference to the outstanding matters between the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union, the GTUC official urged the Government to take strident action to have both parties come to an amicable resolution.“This is the longest running struggle where foreign force is being allowed to threaten the nation’s sovereignty when the laws so protect its citizens,” he lamented.While acknowledging that the trade union movement does not exist in isolation but functions in an environment of politicians, Lewis said the movement must, at no time, be easily influenced by these individuals. He said, “We must, to a great extent, resist some of the negative influences that do not serve our best interest, and which seek to undermine the strength of the union and our ability to organize as a force for change.”Safeguard achievementsIn demonstrating his resolve to continue speaking the truth, Lewis accused politicians from both sides of the divide of trying to advance the positions of labour only when they are in opposition; and then turn their backs on labour and go to great lengths in efforts to destroy the strength and organising capabilities of labour when in government.“Those who find us as not relevant today are the same ones that would have found us relevant yesteryear; and the cycle continues as political seasons change,” he added.Speaking on the issue of unity, the GTUC General Secretary said the trade union movement must be constant in its purpose, even as he urged union leaders to pursue unity regardless of who is in or out of power.“We want unity when it comes to respecting our rights, the pursuit of good governance, the good of the trade union principles as against the good of the politicians; and we must remember the political good is not necessarily the trade union good,” he added.Lewis urged workers to follow in the footsteps of those who have led the way for the establishment of trade union movements in Guyana, the Caribbean and around the world. He said unionists must not be timid in their commitment, but must stand up for their rights as Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow had done.“History has proven (that) management/employer does not give you anything willingly, and this entails whether it is government or private sector; we have to fight for it,” he opined.The trade union veteran also called on workers to remain constant in the recognition that theirs is a right to struggle, and to demand and ensure that all their achievements are safeguarded.“We, the workers, must remain constant, regardless of who is in or out of power. We have to keep our voices united and resolutely on course. We have to keep our eyes on the prize. The politicians don’t grant us any favours. You elected them and they are entrusted with the responsibility to work for all, not only the elites at the top,” he ended.Meanwhile, Coretta McDonald, who delivered her maiden speech as president of the GTUC, focused her address on the need for greater unity within the trade union movement; the need for labour unions to strengthen the base of that movement; and the need to continue to look out for workers’ interests.McDonald said, “Too many times we push workers under the bus…and union business is no secret to members”. She also said she is “tired of the divide that politicians seek to create between us.”Active engagementAddressing the gathering on Monday also, president of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand, said conditions today call for the active engagement of workers in trade union activities.Chand expressed concerns over the nation’s economic fortunes and the growing recognition that the economy is in a tailspin. He said official statistics indicate that nearly all of our productive sectors are seeing declining performances, and foreign exchange inflows are falling.“In such situations, the working people and their families are the hardest hit victims. They experience, nowadays, increases often times steeped in the cost-of-living. There is the shuttering of businesses or the reduction of business activity, which have brought on retrenchments,” he remarked.Addressing the state of the sugar industry, the GAWU leader said the challenges the industry faces are not insurmountable, and sugar’s success will redound to the benefit of the local economy. He deemed it heartening that officials of the Government have given assurances that the industry will not die, but he said the plans in place for the industry indicate the total opposite.This May Day Rally and March was attended by several important figures, including former President, Donald Ramotar; former President and Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds; former Mayor of Georgetown, Hamilton Green; ministers of Government, and past and present trade union leaders.