101 years of active legal trade unionism in Guyana

Dear Editor,
This year, 2022, marks one hundred and one years since the enactment, on 18 June 1921, of the Trade Unions Act: Chapter 98:03 – #17 of 1921. This first fundamental Trade Union Law provides for registration and regulation of trade unions; their rights, protection, obligations; the registration of rules; changes in rules; amalgamation; the rendering of financial accountability; audit of accounts; and the report of the Registrar of Trades Unions to the National Assembly.
The main statutory provisions include:
Trade Unions: Trade Unions are prohibited from carrying out business, unless it is registered (Sections 11-12) with the Registrar of Trade Unions in accordance with this Act. A trade union not registered in accordance with this Act shall be dissolved within three months of its formation; or be dissolved, if the Registrar of Trade Unions refuses to register it, for failure to meet the requirements of this Act (Section 24).
Any seven or more members of a trade union may, by subscribing their names to the rules of the union, register the union with the Registrar of Trade Unions. (Section 15)
Protection of Trade Unions: In furtherance of a trade dispute within the context of this Act, trade unions are protected from criminal prosecution for conspiracy or otherwise. The purpose of any trade union shall not be unlawful so as to invalidate any agreement (Section 5). This law protects trade unions against action of tort and breach of contract or agreement or trust in pursuance of a trade dispute (Sections 7 and 8).
Property and Trustees: The Act provides for the property of the unions to be vested in trustees (trustees cannot hold office in the same union); for legal actions by or against trustees; and limitation of responsibility of trustees (Section 16-21).
Financial Accountability: The Act also requires every treasurer or other officer to render to the trustees, the members of the union at a duly constituted meeting of the union, a just and true account of monies received and paid, funds remaining, and all bonds and securities of the union. The trustees are required to submit to the Auditor General for audit within fourteen days of the receipt of the account from the treasurer (Section 22).
This Trade Union Law further stipulates the requirements and conditions in relation to the registration of union rules; the registered office of the unions; withdrawal or cancellation of certificate of registration; change of union’s name; amalgamation of unions; registration of change of name and amalgamation; and dissolution of the union (Sections 25-33).
Annual Return and Registrar’s Reports: Section 35 of the Act imposes an obligation on every registered trade union to present to the Registrar a general statement of receipts, funds, effects, and expenditure before the 1st. of May in every year. The general statement must show fully the assets and liabilities of the preceding year, and must be prepared together with such information and in the manner stipulated in this Act.
The Registrar of Trade Unions is required to lay before the National Assembly annual reports with respect to matters transacted by the Registrar, in keeping with the requirements of the Trade Unions Act. (Section 36).
Pertinent questions for public information should be for those with statutory responsibilities – the Registrar of Trade Unions; the Trade Unions and their Officers; the Trustees of Trade Unions; the Auditor General; the National Assembly.
(Reference: The System of Industrial Relations in Guyana by Samuel J. Goolsarran, and published by the ILO)

Samuel J Goolsarran