Trade unions called on to be more active in workers’ education

─ GPSU hosts 23rd Biennial Delegates Conference

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, September 25, 2019

His Excellency, President David Granger, has called on the trade unions to play a more active role in the education of workers. It was explained that a modern public service demands competent, proficient and versatile workers.

“Public servants must upgrade their training continuously if they are to remain relevant to the new economy, which is emerging. Trade unions have a responsibility to invest in the well-being of their workers’, including through collaboration with private and public agencies to improve workers’ education.”

The president was at the time addressing the Guyana Public Service Union’s (GPSU) 23rd Biennial Delegates’ Conference at the Baridi Benab today. He noted that the public service sector is improving, and as Guyana’s economy continues to transform, education is essential to guaranteeing a more highly specialised and skilled workforce to ensure a better-quality delivery of service to all citizens.

“Change is taking place at a rapid pace and is transforming the nature of the workplace. Workers who are not prepared for the continuous changes in the field and office could find their careers retarded and their service redundant. Workers will be unable to adapt to this new workplace environment unless they receive constant training. Education is essential to preparing employees to enter the labour market and once in the labour market, to adapt continuously to the changing nature of work. It means that education must be continuous.”

The Public Service provides administrative services to citizens, communities, companies and the entire country. It offers agricultural services, birth, business and death registration, immigration services, port health services, postal services, legal and local government services, public education, health, infrastructure, telecommunications, security and social security among other services. Therefore, the president noted, a modern public service demands competent, proficient and versatile workers, who can constantly adapt to changing technologies.

According to the Head of State, the GPSU, established 96 years ago, has the experience and the expertise to inaugurate a new compact, agreement, between the government, the trade unions and the private sector. The GPSU – one of Guyana oldest trade unions – has to lead by example, he said.

The president urged the conference to examine ways and means in which the union can work with the government to usher in a new era in our relations – one in which there is cooperation and collaboration and wished the union continued success as it adapts to a rapidly changing labour landscape.

Also addressing the gathering was Prime Minister, Hon. Moses Nagamootoo, who spoke of the interventions by the government to ensure workers are receiving a living wage. Apart from the minimum wage, which was increased by 52%, the government improved the non-wage packages.

“When we got into the government, although we were unable to pay the wages’ debts that we inherited because of the nature and the quality of the revenue at our disposal, you still could not be unaware and unappreciative of the fact that some of the elements of the nonwage’s package were put into force with the duty free and some house lots and allowances and the raising of the income tax threshold ad the withdrawal of NIS from some levels of deductions.”

Administrative/Education Officer at GPSU, Vera Naughton reminded that the trade unions were the first mass-based organisation that emerged post-slavery. Naughton noted that over the years, the union has conceptualised and developed programmes that impacted change and realise benefits that many enjoy today. She affirmed that the unions must negotiate, lobby and elect those who will best represent them and serve in the best interest of the trade union movement.

The conference is being held under the theme ‘Championing a living wage, respect for collective bargaining, striving for genuine working-class and national unity.’ It is the highest decision-making forum of the GPSU. Over the next three days, participants will engage in intense discussions, which will charter the way forward for a more resilient public service sector.

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