THE National Assembly has unanimously approved a motion that the Government’s annual subvention to the Critchlow Labour College (CLC), withheld since 2007, be restored.The motion was passed last Thursday after the mover, Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament (MP) Trevor Williams, had made an amendment that was acceptable to both sides of the House.
The original motion had merely called for the Government to restore the subvention, but the amendment included a precondition that the labour component of the Board of Directors of the CLC must include four representatives of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), placing representatives of FITUG on the Board of the CLC for the first time.
It was this amendment which secured the approval of the Government Members of Parliament.
Prior to the forging of the consensual amendment, the matter of the subvention to the CLC, the reasons it was withheld and the reasons it should be restored were hotly debated by both Government and Opposition Members of Parliament.
It was established that both the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) governments had provided subventions to the CLC since its establishment by the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) in 1965.
The PPP/C had, however, withdrawn the subvention in 2007 after complaining that there had been little or no accounting for the funds provided, and that there was no proportionality on the Board of Directors with respect to representation by major trade unions under the umbrella of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).
In rationalising the withdrawal of the subvention, Labour Minister Dr. Nanda Gopaul said that lack of accountability for public funds had been the main reason. He said: “Government is sympathetic to the motion. We would like to give some form of subvention to workers’ education. We are not penalizing the College, but there must be accountability. We could not put money into an entity which was not accounting for its use.”
However, speakers on both sides of the House agreed that the CLC had played an extremely useful role as the “second opportunity college” for low achievers at the secondary level.
It was agreed that thousands of Guyanese had benefited from the affordable education provided by the CLC, and had used the qualifications gained as stepping stones for entry into the University of Guyana.
AFC MP Trevor Williams, himself a graduate of the CLC, concurred with the need for accountability, but posited that, given the importance of the CLC, steps other than withdrawal of the funding should have been considered.
He said that at the time of Government’s withdrawing funding from the CLC, the college had been operating not only in Georgetown, but also in Linden and New Amsterdam. The regrettable withdrawal had led to reduced capacity of the CLC to offer the acceptable level of education to the “second chance” youths who needed it most, and that was a situation that was detrimental to the education of many.
PPP/C MP Manzoor Nadir said the undemocratic nature of the appointment of members to the Board of Directors of the CLC had been a major problem. “If we are going forward, the way to do this is to have members of the Board (be) representative of labour, not dominated by any of the smaller unions in labour, but representative of all of labour. I would make bold to say — without consulting our Members of Parliament on this side of the House — that if he (MP Trevor Williams) is prepared to amend the motion now to ensure that the eight members who come from labour will comprise four nominees from FITUG and four nominees from the TUC, I am sure that we will wholeheartedly approve of (the motion).
“Amend it! Amend it,” he urged.
AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo concurred with the opinion that a wider cross section of members on the board of the CLC would see the syllabus of CLC being changed to include genuine labour subjects, and serve to incubate future leaders in a genuine school of labour.; but he said the students of the CLC should not be penalized for faults of the institution’s administration.
Following further debate, Speaker of the House, Mr. Raphael Trotman, suggested to AFC’s Trevor Williams that he could use a brief recess as an opportunity to make an amendment to the motion, were he so inclined.
The amended motion arising from Williams’s willingness read in conclusion: “Be it resolved that the National Assembly calls on the Government of Guyana to restore the subvention to the CLC; and further, that as a precondition to the provision of the subvention, the labour component of the Board of Directors of the CLC be comprised of[sic] four representatives of FITUG and four of the TUC.”
Sixty-one members voted in favour of the subvention being restored. There were no abstentions or dissensions.
Minister Gopaul said he was happy that the situation at CLC had reached the stage where opportunity would be had for representatives of all of labour to have a say in the expenditures of the college, in accountability for funds provided, and in the running of the affairs of the revived institution.
By Clifford Stanley