Use oil revenues for unemployment benefits – Trade Unionist

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Veteran Trade unionist Lincoln Lewis is advocating for oil funds to be invested into the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to provide unemployment benefits to citizens.

Speaking at a conference hosted in observance of the 100th anniversary of the trade union movement, Lewis, who is also the General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), noted that this is one way to ensure that the population benefits from the incoming oil revenues.

“As they [policy makers] 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 job, they can get unemployment benefits,” the trade unionist noted.

“We must benefit from the proceeds and wealth of this country,” he added.

The Trade Unionist pointed out that workers face the same struggles today which they did at the start of the trade union movement 100 years ago. As such, he said more must be done by the unions to ensure citizens reap the benefits of the petroleum sector.

“We are not tasked with the responsibility of dividing the national pie; ours is the duty to advocate for equitable no-partisan division that elevate the standards of the working class,” he said.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan in October 2018 urged the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to consider the issuance of unemployment benefits.

He had suggested that such benefits can be paid to persons during the period it takes for them to regain employment.

Wednesday’s conference was hosted by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) at the Grand Coastal Hotel, Le Resouvenir, East Coast Demerara (ECD).

Also in attendance were members of the Federation of Independent Trades Union of Guyana (FITUG), Labour Minister Keith Scott, Former Minister of Labour Dr. Nanda Gopaul, Former President Donald Ramotar and Opposition Parliamentarians Juan Edghill and Clement Rohee.

In the presence of the officials, Lewis called on workers to unite and hold politicians accountable as the country heads into another elections cycle.

“We tired of promises, promises, promises,” he said.

GAWU’s General Secretary, Seepaul Narine

He warned those in attendance that “they [politicians] gon come again with it, they go promise you and when they get into power, when the elections done, they forget you.

“They got to change this thing.”

Lewis told the union leaders that they must move away from the culture of accepting wrongdoing from parties which they support.

“We have to be consistent, for what is wrong and detrimental to workers’ wellbeing cannot become acceptable when a regime of your preference is in Government or Opposition,” he noted.

Addressing the gathering on behalf of GAWU was General Secretary, Seepaul Narine who called on trade unions to abide by the recent Caribbean Court of Justice ruling, and agree on a date for elections as soon as possible.

“It would be remiss of the trade union movement if this conference does not call on our political leaders to abide fully with the CCJ ruling and agree on the date of National elections as a matter of urgency,” he said.

The Government and the Opposition are currently working on appointing a new GECOM Chair who will advise on a plausible date for elections.

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