…receives endorsement from GTUCWhile criticising Government for its handling of matters concerning outstanding wages and salaries owed to workers by employers, Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Gillian Burton-Persaud used the opportunity to call on Government to reestablish the Labour Ministry to look at specific issues in relation to the many delicate challenges facing workers and trade unions.Opposition MP and former trade union leader, Gillian Burton-PersaudBurton-Persaud, who was one of the key speakers at the annual May Day rally which was held at the National Park on Tuesday, told the hundreds of workers in attendance that there is need for Government to fulfil their part of the bargain since many contractors claim the reason for non-payment is because they (the contractors) are yet to be paid for work done for the Government.“The Minister needs to advise the Government better as it relates to its adherence to the Collective Bargaining process, negotiations and workers’ rights. We have seen too much bungling in these areas. I therefore support the call for the Ministry of Labour to be a separate Ministry,” she asserted.The former trade union leader and Opposition spokespersons on labour in the National Assembly said the ‘sorry state of our economy’ signals to the trade union movement that there is a lot of work to do. In delivering a passionate speech, Burton-Persaud said it cannot be business as usual.Further, the MP called on workers to stop succession planning, and activate that plan into flight mode. “The time is now for workers to impose upon delinquent leaders the need to shape up or ship out. Workers must no longer accept mediocre representation from union leaders,” she added.Burton-Persaud said her party, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and its leaders will not stand idly by and allow the rights of workers and the democracy of citizens to be trampled upon.“Therefore, we stand in solidarity with every Guyanese worker regardless of sector, gender, race, ethnicity, religious, political or cultural persuasion in ensuring that your rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of choice, the right to work so as to provide a decent life for yourself and family remain intact and is in no way threatened or taken away by anyone.”Support for MinistryThe Member of Parliament’s call for the re-establishment of a Labour Ministry was supported by General Secretary of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) Lincoln Lewis. But he went a bit further to request of Burton-Persaud and her party to table a motion to the National Assembly seeking the re-establishment of the Ministry.“Labour is prepared to work with you to bring this to fruition and hopes you take this commitment in the spirit of solidarity. Labour also holds out optimism that Minister (Basil) Williams would be able to use this experience in impressing on his Administration the wisdom of having a Ministry of Labour and the benefit of treating labour as a social partner consistent with Article 38 and 149C of the Guyana Constitution.”Lewis argued that with the absence of that Ministry, not only does it signal the value Government places on a country’s most valued resource but also communicates to allies and foes of Guyana that Guyanese are not considered pivotal to the country’s development. He said this was also reinforced with the country’s non-attendance to International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference for the past three years.“Where we know better and different we must continue to act accordingly for development of society requires of us staying the course. Employment remains a sore issue. Too many are unemployed, under-employed, and the retired who need to be productively engaged are too being deprived. We note the statistics of the Guyana Labour Force Survey,” the outspoken trade union leader added.Importantly, while Lewis said that the effort of gathering scientific data is commendable, he said it must make real the science through action. “Meaning must be given to data being collected beyond collection and making findings public.” As such, he said Guyana needs a policy for the creation of decent jobs.“We had the Feed, Clothe and House Programme and the Structural Adjustment Programme that gave rise to systems being put in place to make these possible with the trade union playing a meaningful role, and the Ministry of Labour being the institution that coordinated and developed policies that impacted the role of the workers in the process, ensuring laws to protect workers and compliance with international standard based on the country’s obligations to organisations Guyana is affiliated with,” he added.