Trade unions must safeguard workers in the oil and gas sector – Narine

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GTUC General Secretary, Lincoln Lewis

-Lewis suggests that oil revenue can be used for unemployment benefits

WITH the oil and gas sector set to come on stream in a matter of months, trade unionists believe that the trade union movement must safeguard the interests of the workers in the sector.

“We cannot be oblivious to the fact that we are on the threshold of major developments in the new oil and gas sector…we also recognise that there is much uncertainty surrounding this sector and its impact on people’s lives and future,” said General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine, during his remarks at the conference hosted in observance of the 100th anniversary of the trade union movement, on Wednesday.

He said the situation cries out for attention from a vibrant trade union movement which is committed to safeguarding workers and people.

In the face of such a challenge, he said unions cannot shirk their responsibility; co-ordinated and united actions become indispensable.

GAWU General Secretary, Seepaul Narine

“The leadership has to wake up to the reality that it is not what it used to be in the past, now a revolutionary approach is necessary for them to understand especially ahead of the oil and gas sector,” said Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Keith Scott.

He said the style of engagement has changed and it is not what it used to be. Scott believes that trade unions are under threat because less people belong to unions, there are fewer unions and there are less capable leaders with less vision.

“People need to have more confidence and develop confidence to take leadership of the union,” he asserted.

General Secretary of the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis, said it is the duty of trade unions to advocate for equitable, non-partisan decisions that elevate the standard of the working class. “We must advocate for deepening relationships and genuine inclusivity of all our people at every level of decision-making,” he said.

Workers face the same struggles which they faced at the start of the trade union movement, said Lewis, adding that a lot must be done to ensure that citizens benefit from the oil and gas sector.

He suggested that revenues from the new sector should be pumped into the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to benefit persons who are unemployed.

“As they talk about the windfall they will be getting from oil, it may be the right place for them to put some money in the NIS so when people lose their jobs, they can get unemployment benefits,” said Lewis.