Minister Scott apologises for “virtual impotence” remark

…comment “distasteful”— unions

The sweeping and scathing generalisation that Junior Social Protection Minister Keith Scott made against the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) earlier this week came in for heavy condemnation from the two trade union umbrella bodies.keith-scott

In a strongly-worded letter issued by FITUG and GTUC on Thursday, Minister Scott’s “virtual impotence” comment was deemed “distasteful and disturbing”.

But late Thursday afternoon, the Minister responded to the calls and retracted his earlier statements. In fact, the Government Information Agency (GINA) quoted the Minister acknowledging his “mistake”. “I made the mistake, that statement is regrettable; I’m solely responsible for the statement being made. I take full responsibility for saying so, and it takes nothing out of me to say to FITUG, GTUC, media and to the citizens of Guyana, that I’m sorry,” the Labour Minister was quoted as saying. It was during the deliberations of the Committee of Supply in Parliament on Tuesday, Opposition Members of Parliament Juan Edghill and Gillian Burton-Persaud requested that Scott justified Government’s allocation of $24 million to the Guyana National Cooperative Union Limited (GNCU), a body which falls under the Social Protection Ministry’s labour department.

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) MPs had asked the Minister if the money could have been allocated to the GTUC and FITUG instead of GNCU. In response, Scott had quipped: “You would recognise the virtual impotence of those two bodies.”

This remark prompted a heated exchange between Opposition MPs and the Minister who has responsibility for labour.

On Thursday, FITUG and GTUC questioned Government’s level of consideration for workers’ rights.

“This most incredulous labelling by you of our organisations as “impotent” begs the question whether this is the level of regard that the Government has for the labour movement and by extension the workers of Guyana,” the joint statement queried.

“We strongly view [it] as a most distasteful and disturbing remark, about our organisations,” FITUG and GTUC further expressed.

The union bodies pondered if the representative of the Government, Scott, inadvertently conveyed “a clandestinely held view” of the current Administration with respect to the trade union movement.

“The distasteful comment further opens speculation as to whether your utterance…has informed your Administration’s decision to dismantle the Ministry of Labour, which is relegated to a department, headed by you (Scott).”

FITUG and the GTUC added that they viewed the comment as an attack on workers across the country, and called on the Minister to either provide clarification to his earlier comment or issue an “unequivocal apology” to the unions.

Speaking directly to the Minister, the unions reminded that it was the very workforce that was responsible for Scott being in his position.

“It may be important to remind you, they (workers) pay your salary from their toil and sweat, and in many instances, are left with what is not adequate.”